Updated 12:46 p.m. CT Monday
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo is leaving to become the new chief of the Miami Police Department, he announced at a press conference Monday.
Speaking to reporters in Miami, Acevedo said his decision was partly based on the fact that Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is currently in his final term. Acevedo said he had opportunities in California and even within the Biden administration, but decided to continue his work in Miami.
"Service is in my heart, and making a difference is in my heart," he said. "When you look (at) the influence of this city, and the vision of the leadership with the city manager and the mayor, and the council – Miami is a city on the move."
Acevedo was joined by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who praised the new chief’s arrival, calling him “the best chief in America.”
“We’re very blessed to have someone in Art, who not only has resided over three large departments, but is someone who brings a tremendous ability, personality, and has the right frame of mind to come in here and make this the best department (on) the planet,” Suarez said.
Back in Houston, Mayor Turner congratulated Acevedo and thanked him for more than four years of service.
"He performed at an exceptional level and he will be missed by many of us in this city," he said. "I wish him well, he and his family, and I know he will do an excellent job in Miami with Mayor Suarez."
Turner added that news regarding the future of the HPD's leadership would be announced later this week.
We'll miss his contributions on the @HoustonTX team, but fortunate to work with such a talented and passionate colleague
Good luck & Godspeed, my friend! https://t.co/Crce4xqxJF
— Chief Samuel Peña (@FireChiefofHFD) March 15, 2021
The chief announced his departure in a message to staff late Sunday night. The email, first reported by the Houston Chronicle, was confirmed later by Houston Police Officers' Union President Douglas Griffith.
“An email was sent this evening by Chief Acevedo, advising that he was taking a new job in Miami,” Griffith said in a text message. “We wish him the best on his new job, and appreciate his service to Houston.”
Acevedo, who was sworn in as HPD chief in 2016, said in the email that his departure was “bittersweet.”
"We have been through so much as an extended family," Acevedo wrote. "Hurricane Harvey, two world series, a superbowl, Irma, the summer of protest, and most recently, an ice storm of epic proportion. On top of all this, we have sadly buried six of our fallen heroes."
The outgoing chief praised his police force, and the mayor’s leadership.
“I was not looking for this opportunity when it arose, but with the end (of) Mayor Turner’s final term in office fast approaching, and my strong desire to continue serving as a police officer, we decided the timing for this move was good,” Acevedo said. “Good because you will continue to serve with the strong support of Mayor Turner, and his council colleagues.”
Turner recently announced he would use federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay for an additional police cadet class. Houston City Council also recently increased the HPD budget to nearly $1 billion, in the face of opposition from some organizers and members of the public.
Acevedo has made a name for himself as a proponent of community policing, and what he’s called “relational policing” in Houston. He made national headlines in 2020 for marching alongside protesters during days of demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
He’s currently the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, where he’s used his position to call for a national conversation on policing.
But he hasn’t been without controversy throughout his career. Acevedo was Houston chief in 2019 during the deadly Harding Street raid, and faced criticism for failing to release an internal audit of the raid. When the department did release that audit months later, one state legislator called it “a joke,” and lawmakers used it as evidence of the need for more police oversight.
Acevedo has also been criticized for delaying or denying the release of body cam footage in the wake of deadly police shootings. Most recently, the department released body cam footage in the death of Nicolas Chavez, who was shot and killed by Houston police on April 21. Acevedo initially refused to release the footage, but later relented in September after public outcry. Four officers were fired.
As Austin police chief, Acevedo came under fire after making insensitive comments about sexual assault in response to a jaywalking arrest. He also faced criticism from the Austin police union over staffing in the wake of the shooting death of an unarmed teen.
And as a former member of the California Highway Patrol, Acevedo was accused by an ex-girlfriend of sexual harassment, according to the Dallas Morning News. A federal lawsuit making the allegation was later dismissed.
Still, public officials generaly credit the chief for improving relations with
Acevedo is just the latestg police chief in Texas to leave his post, though Acevedo does so with a reputation for having improved relations between the public and his police force.
Last month, 30-year veteran and Austin police Chief Brian Manley announced his retirement, after a year of local criticism from locals who say his tenure was marred by racism and police brutality. Last year, Manley came under fire from city leaders in the wake of the police killing of Mike Ramos, a Black and Hispanic man.
Manley has denied that the criticism led to his retirement.
Dallas police Chief Reneé Hall stepped down in September in the wake of his department’s handling of protests spurred by the killing of George Floyd.