Police Survey Prompts Request for Mediation

The head of the Houston police officers union wants City Council to facilitate a meeting between the union and the chief of police. Communication between the union and the department chief has been rocky since the release of an officers' survey which showed widespread lack of support for Police Chief Harold Hurtt. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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Nearly 50 percent of Houston Police Officers responded to a survey about the state of the department. The results show a significant amount of negative feedback on HPD Chief Harold Hurtt's leadership ability. Houston Police Officers' Union President Hans Marticiuc is asking Houston Mayor Bill White and the rest of city council to mediate a meeting between the union and Chief Hurtt.

"Chief Hurtt acts as though he has all the answers. Not only has he broken the promises of the mayor and city in terms of public safety, he has turned a deaf ear to 4,700 police officers who protect Houston before he got here and who will be here after he leaves and goes to his next job in another city."

City Council members suspended the time rules and held a lengthy discussion over Marticiuc's request. Councilmember Shelley Sekula-Gibbs came to the chief's defense, saying the complaints from the officers are probably due to stress from difficult situations which started before Hurtt was hired.

"But now we're looking at having six new police cadet classes, we're trying to reinvigorate and reinfuse quality individuals into your department and take some of the stress off, because I can only imagine what's going on where you're having 300-400 too few officers to take care of this explosive crime situation that we have. So I can imagine that that would be also a morale buster."

Several councilmembers expressed concern that these internal issues were being voiced publicly, calling it a matter of airing dirty laundry. Councilmember Michael Berry told Marticiuc the bottom line is Hurtt will not be fired and questioned exactly what the union wants council to do.

"So what would you have us do sitting where we're sitting? How is this resolved? [Marticiuc] I'm not sure. That seems to be a very easy question for a very complex situation. I think the first thing we need to do is get us in a room and bring some of you folks in to help give us some guidance here and come to some resolution hopefully to put this department back on track. Because you can't have half your management staff either uncomfortable or seeing the boss as not competent. Something has to be done, I'm not a magician, I don't know what the answer is."

Mayor White agreed to call a meeting between council, the officers' union and Hurtt and gave his assurance that this meeting would result in some kind of resolution between the parties. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.

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