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Chief of Police

Art Acevedo

Art Acevedo was sworn-in as Chief of the Houston Police Department (HPD) on November 30, 2016.

Chief Acevedo leads a department of 5,200 sworn law enforcement officers and 1,200 civilian support personnel with an annual general fund budget of $825 million in the fourth largest city in the United States.

 Chief Acevedo believes good communication is vital for a successful community and steadily works to strengthen the bond between the community and its police department.  A proponent of community policing, Chief Acevedo refers to the proven practice as “Relational Policing,” an opportunity to forge a relationship with each citizen an officer comes in contact with.

 The first Hispanic to lead the HPD, Acevedo brings a unique understanding to the concerns of the diverse communities in the City of Houston.  Born in Cuba, he was 4 years old when he migrated to the United States with his family in 1968.  Acevedo grew up in California and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration from the University of La Verne in California.

Acevedo began his law enforcement career in 1986 as field patrol officer in East Los Angeles with the California Highway Patrol.  He rose through the ranks and was named Chief of the California Highway Patrol in 2005.  Acevedo most recently served nine years as Chief of the Austin Police Department.

 Chief Acevedo holds various leadership positions with the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He is married to Tanya Born Acevedo and is the father of Melissa, Matthew and Jake.

 

Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) Program

The First and Foundational Program of Houston’s Multi-Faceted Strategy for Responding to Individuals in Serious Mental Health Crisis

Houston started its Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) Program in 1999 as a pilot in the Central Patrol Division. After a successful six-month pilot, Chief of Police C. O. “Brad” Bradford ordered the program implemented in all patrol divisions. Department-wide implementation started in March 2000. By June of that year, 213 patrol officers had received the 40-hour CIT class. By January 2001, approximately 700 officers had received CIT training. As of January 2016, Houston has a total of 2,654 CIT officers.

 

A Hybrid Program

Houston started its CIT program based on the Memphis model of training veteran volunteer officers and training 25 percent of the patrol force. Houston had an availability problem with having only 25 percent of its patrol force trained. The majority of CIT calls were not being responded to by CIT officers because CIT officers were not available. To address this problem, and because Houston believes CIT training is beneficial to all officers and the skills can be utilized in many different calls – not just calls involving a person in mental heatlh crisis – Houston started providing crisis intervention training to all cadets in March 2007. The cadets graduate as CIT officers. The program is voluntary for veteran officers. In the future, all Houston Police Department officers will be CIT officers.

 

Crisis Intervention Training vs. Crisis Intervention Team

Houston started referring to its program as the Crisis Intervention Training Program in 2013 because some citizens in the community expected a “team” of officers to respond to a situation involving a person in mental health crisis. To clarify and avoid that misconception, “Team” was replaced with “Training.”

 

CIT Calls-for-Service

2009          23,913

2010          25,105

2011          25,489

2012          27,655

2013          29,272

2014          32,544

2015          35,898

Homeless Outreach Team

 Pictured above: Senior Police Officer Colin Mansfield of the Homeless Outreach Team and Mr. Matthew Campbell who was homeless and who Officer Mansfield met and helped.

History

The Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) started as a pilot program in January 2011. It was made a permanent program in the department after a very successful six-month pilot. Sergeant Stephen Wick, the team’s current supervisor, and Senior Police Officer Jaime Giraldo (at front in picture above) developed and implemented the program.

 

Program Description

HOT is comprised of one sergeant, four police officers, and three mental health professional from The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD. The team helps the homeless with the following:

  • Housing
  • Social Security cards
  • Passports
  • Birth certificates
  • Shelter referrals
  • Medical equipment
  • Employment
  • Bus fare
  • Medical care
  • Mental health treatment

 

Collaboration

The team works with several organizations. The following are a few:

  • SEARCH Homeless Services
  • Lord of the Streets
  • Bread of Life
  • Palmer Way Station
  • Star of Hope
  • Salvation Army
  • Healthcare for the Homeless
  • US Vets
  • DeGeorge Veterans Housing
  • Main Street Minitries
  • Goodwill

 

Goal

To  obtain housing for the chronic homeless.

 

Houston CITYSAVVY

See article and video Truly good guys: HPD unit brings hope to the homeless in CITYSAVVY.

Crisis Intervention Response Team

 Pictured above: Crisis Intervention Response Team Senior Police Officer Mark Stevens and clinician partner Dr. Chris Estes.

History

Houston’s Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) started as a six-month pilot program in March 2008. The pilot was extremely successful and the program was made permanent later that year.

 

Program Description

CIRT is Houston’s co-responder program partnering a Houston CIT officer with a masters-level licensed professional clinician from The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD. The officer and clinician attend roll-call together and ride together in a patrol car. CIRT is our highest level response to individuals in serious mental health crises. The following are the objectives of CIRT:

  • Assist officers with CIT-related calls
  • Conduct pro-active and follow-up CIT investigations
  • Respond to SWAT calls as a resource when available
  • Handle the most serious CIT calls

CIRT units ride citywide with the sole responsibility of responding to CIT-related calls; they are not in the calls-for-service loop.

 

Number of Units

Houston has 12 full-time units. To our knowledge, Houston has the largest co-responder program with the officer and clinician riding together as partners of any single police department in the nation.

 

Harris County Sheriff’s Office Collaboration

A historic collaboration occurred in October 2011, when a joint Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) / Houston Police Department (HPD) Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) was formed that serves the entire Houston/Harris County region. The interlocal agreement was approved by both the Harris County Commissioner’s Court and the Houston City Council, and it allowed the HCSO to join with the HPD / The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD’s CIRT program.

The joint effort is one of the best examples of the collaborative effort with the Houston Police Department and other law enforcement/mental health organizations in Houston/Harris County.

 

Learning Site

Pictured above: a group of officers from the Odessa, Texas Police Department and area law enforcement agencies who received the 40-hour CIT class provided by the Houston Police Department through the United States Council of State Governments Learning Site Program.

Houston was one of six police departments nationwide to be selected in 2010 by the Council of State Governments as a learning site for specialized policing responses for the mentally ill. As a learning site, Houston provides information on its multi-faceted strategies for responding to individuals in serious mental health crises, hosts visitors from across the nation, and trains law enforcement and mental health personnel from across the region, state and nation. Houston started serving as a learning site in January 2011. Senior Officer Frank Webb, Officer Rebecca Skillern, and Program Director Ann MacLeod make up the learning site training team.

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Frank Webb, M. Ed.

Frank, who is in his 35th year in the department, helped develop and implement Houston’s CIT Program and was CIT Coordinator from 1999 to 2006, when the program expanded and was placed under a lieutenant. Officer Webb was the Discipline Chair of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement’s committee that developed the CIT curriculum for the Texas Basic Peace Officers’ Course and was selected to teach the state-mandated 16-hour CIT class to all Texas police chiefs. He received the 100 Club of Houston’s Officer of the Year Award in 1987, the Houston Police Department’s Officer of the Year Award in 2000, and the Houston Police Department’s Instructor of the Year Award in 2010. Frank has also received several awards from the mental health community. Frank has been teaching CIT-related classes since 1995.

Rebecca Skillern, M.A., LPC-S

Rebecca is one of the original HPD Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) officers and has been with the Mental Health Unit since July 2008. Prior to joining HPD, Officer Skillern received her B.S. in Psychology and her M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy at the University of Houston – Clear Lake. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor – Supervisor who has worked in the mental health field for over 17 years. Rebecca has served in several leadership positions as a mental health professional, including having served as President of the Houston Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and is currently serving as the first Chair/President for the Texas CIT Association.

 Site Visits – 2011

Durham, North Carolina

(Above) Members of the Durham (NC) Police Department visited Houston in April to study the department’s innovative programs for responding to individuals in serious mental health crises. Based on what they learned in Houston, the visitors returned to Durham with plans to develop a database, develop more proactive programs, and planned to collaborate more closely with their mental health partners and local universities. Pictured are (left to right): Assistant Chief J. H. Chen, West Patrol Command, Houston Police Department; Executive Assistant Chief K. A. Munden, Field Operations, Houston Police Department; Investigator William Fleeman, Durham Police Department’s CIT Program; Ms. Alanna Jones, Clinical Case Manager for the Durham County Criminal Justice Resource Center partnering with the Durham Police Department’s CIT Program; Corporal Mark Morais, Durham Police Department’s CIT Program; Senior Officer Frank Webb and Officer Rebecca Skillern, Mental Health Unit, Houston; Assistant Chief M. D. Slinkard, Forensics Services Command, Houston.
 

Denver, Colorado

(Above) Members of the Denver (CO) Police Department visited Houston in August to study  Houston’s programs to respond to the mentally ill. What impressed the visitors from Denver the most was the extent of the collaboration that exists between Houston and its mental health partners, the strong community relations and support for Houston’s programs, Houston’s CIRT program and database. Pictured (left to right): Officer Rebecca Skillern, Houston; Officer Susan Gann, Denver Police Department Mental Health Unit; Executive Assistant Chief T. N. Oettmeier, Support Operations, Houston; Sergeant Betty Hale, Denver Police Department Mental Health Unit; and Senior Officer Frank Webb, Houston.

 Texas CIT Training – 2011

 

San Marcos – June 2011

Sonora – July 2011

New Braunfels – October 2011

Laredo – November 2011

CIT Training – 2012 

McAllen, Texas – April/May 2012

Cleveland, Texas – August 2012

Tuscaloosa, Alabama – September 2012

Goliad, Texas – October 2012

Site Visits – 2012

 

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

(Above) Members of the Milwaukee (WI) Police Department visited Houston in July to learn about Houston’s specialized programs to deal with individuals in serious mental health crises. Based on what they learned in Houston, the visitors hoped to develop a comprehensive database, strengthen their collaboration with their mental health partners, revamp their training and work on developing a Crisis Intervention Response Team. Pictured are (left to right) Captain Bruce Williams, Chief’s Office, Houston Police Department; Officer Rebecca Skillern, Houston Police Department Mental Health Unit; Executive Assistant Chief Tim Oettmeier, Houston Police Department; Lieutenant Karen Dubis, Criminal Investigations Bureau, Milwaukee Police Department; Sergeant Cherie’ Robertson, CIT Coordinator, Milwaukee Police Department; Officer Chad Stiles, CIT Officer, Milwaukee Police Department; Senior Officer Frank Webb, Houston Police Department Mental  Health Unit.

CIT Training – 2013

 

Mankato, Minnesota - July 29 - August 2

Mankato, Minnesota – July 2013

Site Visits – 2014

 

King County (WA) Sheriff’s Office – February 2014

(left to right) Deputy Val Kelly, King County Sheriff’s Office; Senior Officer Frank Webb, Houston Police Department; Captain Scott Strathy, King County Sheriff’s Office; Chief of Police Charles A. McClelland, Jr., Houston Police Department; Deputy Josephine McNaughton, King County Sheriff’s Office; Officer Rebecca Skillern, Houston Police Department; Executive Assistant Chief M. A. Dirden, Houston Police Department; Captain Wendy Baimbridge, Houston Police Department.

Knoxville Site Visit Group Pix

Knoxville (TN) Police Department – September 2014

(left to right) Lieutenant Patrick Plourde, Houston Police Department; Senior Officer Frank Webb, Houston Police Department; Officer Rebecca Skillern, Houston Police Department; Executive Assistant Chief M. A. Dirden, Houston Police Department; Sergeant Susan Coker, Knoxville Police Department; Chief of Police Charles A. McClelland, Jr., Houston Police Department; Captain Wendy Baimbridge, Houston Police Department

CIT Training 2014

 

Misc Pixs-2

40-Hour Mental Health Peace Officer Training
South Padre Island, Texas – April

Misc Pixs (2)

40-Hour Mental Health Peace Officer Training
Conroe Independent School District Police Department
Conroe, Texas – July

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40-Hour Mental Health Peace Officer Training
Houston Independent School District Police Department
Houston, Texas – August

Laredo Lightroom

40-Hour Mental Health Peace Officer Training
Laredo Police Department and area agencies
Laredo, Texas – September

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40-Hour Mental Health Peace Officer Training
Sequin Police Department and area agencies
Seguin, Texas – December

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40-Hour Mental Health Peace Officer Training
McAllen Police Department and area agencies
McAllen, Texas – December

Site Visits 2015

Arlington Site Visit

Arlington (TX) Police Department – February 2015

(left to right) Senior Officer Frank Webb, Houston Police Department; Officer Rebecca Skillern, Houston Police Department; Stephanie Gillespie, Community Support Manager, Arlington Police Department; Captain Wendy Bainbridge, Houston Police Department.

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Duluth  (MN) Police Department – June 2015

(left to right) Officer Rebecca Skillern, Houston Police Department; Lieutenant Cheryl Southwell, Houston Police Department; Senior Officer Frank Webb, Houston Police Department; Officer Angela Robertson, Duluth Police Department; Executive Assistant Chief Michael A. Dirden, Houston Police Department; Patty Beech, Data Analyst, Duluth Police Department; Officer Dave Drozdowski, Duluth Police Department; Deb Holman, Street Outreach, Churches United Ministry, Duluth; Mark Engebretson, Street Outreach, Churches United Ministry, Duluth.

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Milwaukee (WI) Police Department – August 2015

(left to right) Lieutenant Cheryl Southwell, Houston Police Department (HPD); Officer Rebecca Skillern, HPD; Chief of Police Charles A. McClellan, Jr., HPD; Lieutenant Liam Looney, Milwaukee Police Department;  Senior Officer Frank Webb, HPD.

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Madison (WI) Police Department – August 2015

(left to right) Lieutenant Cheryl Southwell, Houston Police Department (HPD); Gerald Murphy, United States Council of State Governments (USCSG); Nicola Smith-Kea, USCSG; Captain Kristen Roman, Madison Police Department; Executive Assistant Chief Michael A. Dirden, HPD; Sarah Hendrickson, Journey Mental Health Center, Madison; Theresa Badnarik, Journey Mental Health Center; Senior Officer Frank Webb, HPD; Captain Wendy Bainbridge, HPD.

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U.S. Department of Justice- October 2015

(left to right) Officer Rebecca Skillern, Houston Police Department (HPD); Captain Wendy Baimbridge, HPD; Kisha Lorio, The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD (THC); Ann MacLeod, THC; Sergeant J. C. Silva, HPD; Lieutenant Cheryl Southwell, HPD; Joseph Spadafore, Center for Court Innovation, U.S. Department of Justice; Jennifer Tallon, Ph.D., Center for Court Innovation, U.S. Department of Justice; Senior Officer Frank Webb, HPD; Kim Kornmayer, THC.

CIT Training – 2015

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Apache Junction, Arizona – April

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Kyle, Texas Police Department Group One – May 19, 2015
(Class on the Mental Health Code)

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Kyle, Texas Police Department Group Two – May 20, 2015
(Class on the Mental Health Code)

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Brownsville, Texas Police Department – September

Site Visits – 2016

Salt Lake City Group Pix

Salt Lake City, Utah – February 2016

LAPD Grp Pix

Los Angeles, California – May 2016

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Baltimore, Maryland – September 2016

colorado-site-visit-pix

Colorado Agencies – September 2016

san-marcos-pix

Sam Marcos, Texas – October 2016 

amarillo-pix

Amarillo, Texas – November 2016

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 New York Police Department – November 2016

CIT Training – 2016

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Odessa, Texas – May 2016

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Mission, Texas – July 2016

CIT Training 2017

Seguin, Texas – January 2017

Laredo, Texas – January 2017

 

 

Mental Health Division

Photo by Senior Police Officer Matt Fowler, Houston Police Photo Lab

 

To our knowledge, the Houston Police Department is the only municipal police department in the nation with a mental health division. Comprised of 35 classified personnel and 39 behavioral health professionals, Houston’s mental health division oversees the department’s multi-faceted specialized strategies for responding to the mentally ill. The following is a summary of the division.

Houston Police Department Personnel

1       Captain
1       Secretary
1       Lieutenant
3       CIRT sergeants
1       Administrative/training sergeant
1       Investigations sergeant
1       Homeless outreach sergeant
12     CIRT officers
4       Homeless outreach team officers
2       Boarding homes officers
2       Training officers
1       Chronic consumer officer
1      Public Safety Officer
5       Investigative/administrative officers

 

The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD Personnel

2       secretaries
1       assistant deputy director for field based programs
1       director for the Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT)
2       clinical team leaders for CIRT
12    clinicians for CIRT
1       program director for the Chronic Consumer program
1       clinical team leader for CCSI
6       case managers for CCSI
1       psychiatric technician for CCSI
1       program director for the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT)
3       case managers for HOT
1       program director for the Crisis Call Diversion Program
1       clinical team leader for the Crisis Call Diversion Program
6       Crisis Call Diversion Program phone counselors

 

Response Strategies/Programs

  1.  Chronic Consumer Stabilization Initiative (CCSI)

As with criminal activity, a small percentage of individuals with mental illness account for the majority of police calls-for-service. These are the individuals who continually go into serious mental health crises requiring repeated police intervention. Rather than continuing this reactionary cycle, the Chronic Consumer Stabilization Initiative (CCSI) takes a community policing, pro-active, collaborative approach to help keep these consumers from going into crisis, thus reducing police intervention.

The Houston Police Department’s Mental Health Division identifies the mental health consumers the department responds to most frequently. Case managers from The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD work with voluntary consumers with the goal of using all available resources to reduce subsequent crises.

These case managers  access outpatient mental health treatment, housing, primary health care, substance abuse treatment, and social security benefits for the consumers assigned to them. The case managers  work closely with the NeuroPsychiatric Center (NPC), Mobile Crisis Outreach Team, Crisis Stabilization Unit, Crisis Residential Unit, The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD Helpline, and the Houston Police Department.

The program was piloted for six months in 2009. For the six months prior to the pilot, the 30 individuals identified by the MHU for placement in the program accounted for 396 police calls-for service, 183 emergency detention orders, and 213 offense reports. During the pilot, these same individuals accounted for 122 calls-for-service (69% change), 39 emergency detention orders (78% change), and 83 offense reports (61% change).

Of the consumers on the program in 2014, approximately 70%  reduced both their police contacts (law enforcement calls-for-service) and emergency detentions by 50%.

The program won the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) 2010 Community Policing Award and was a Finalist for the 2010 Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing. The program also won the IACP 2015 Michael Shanahan Award that recognizes outstanding achievement in the development and implementation of public/private cooperation in public safety.

 

2.  Boarding Homes Enforcement Detail

See Map of Boarding Homes in City of Houston

 On July 24, 2013, the Houston City Council passed City Ordinance #2013-674 regulating “Boarding Homes” in the City of Houston. The ordinace amends Chapters 1 and 28 of the Code of Ordinances. This new ordinance regulates unlicensed facilities within the City of Houston.

A boarding home or boarding home facility means an establishment that:

  1. Furnishes, in one or more buildings, lodging to three or more persons with disabilities or elderly persons who are unrelated to the owner of the establishment by blood or marriage; and
  2. Provides residents with community meals, light housework, meal preparation, transportation, grocery shopping, money management, laundry services, or assitance with self-administration of medication, but does not provide personal care services as defined by Section 247.002 of the Texas Health and Safety Code to those persons.

The ordinance exempts certain facilities that have state licenses. (Sec. 28-452).

The ordinance requires a registration, fire inspection, records retention, reporting, and criminal background checks of owners and employees. The ordinance was initiated by personnel assigned to the Houston Police Department’s Mental Health Division (MHD) and will be enforced by a Boarding Homes Enforcement Detail within the MHD.

Although many boarding homes are well run and provide much-needed assistance, some are not; some are abusive. The following is a reprint of an editorial that appeared in the Houston Chronicle on July 31, 2013, describing the conditions of one such abusive boarding home and the need for regulation.

 

Houston Chronicle Editorial – July 31, 2013

 Last month, investigating a 911 call, police found three malnourished elderly men who’d been held, against their will, in a filthy garage for at least a year. The locked garage had no bathroom, no beds, and only a single chair. “Dungeon-like” and “deplorable,” news reports called the place. While the men languished there, their captor cashed their public assistance checks.

How, we wondered, could something that awful happen?

It has to do with the very Texas combination of poverty, lax regulation and good intentions gone awry.

In this case, the regulatory black hole involves group homes, also known in official state regulations as “boarding homes” – entities that, for a low price, provide living space and meals to the mentally ill, the disabled and anyone else who can’t fend for themselves but can’t afford a nursing home.

Without the hundreds of group homes estimated to exist in Texas, many of our state’s most vulnerable peole would be living on the streets.

Group homes operate on shoestring budgets: Typically, they charge no more than the $23 a day that a resident’s Social Security disability check might provide. The best such places throw in extras, like reminders to take medication or rides to go shopping. The worst are abusive.

For decades, the Chronicle has reported on outrages including suspicious deaths, medical mistreatment, malnutrition, fires and lack of supervision.

That dungeon where the three men were held captive? The organization behind it first appeared in state records in 2008, when one Regina Jones registered a nonprofit called Regina’s Faith Ministries. Jones’ pastor, who served on the nonprofit’s board, has said that Jones started with good intentions, aiming to house the homeless.

But according to the Associated Press, Jones didn’t bother to apply for the state license required to operate a group home for more than three residents. In 2011, the state Department of Aging and Disability Services finally investigated the place.

To get out of trouble, the AP reported, Jones wrote the agency that she planned to reduce the number of people her group home served to three, so she’d no longer need a state license. That meant that no agency at all was responsible for monitoring Regina’s Faith Ministry – nobody, that is, until police answered the 911 call.

Besides the three men in the garage, officers found other people living inside the house: another man who said that he, too, had been held against his will, and three women whom police described as “mentally challenged.” Jones’ son, Walter Renard Jones, was charged with two counts of injury to an elderly individual. One of the men in the garage, William Merle Greenawalt, 79, died Thursday in Montgomery County.

It’s a coincidence that, only days after the captives were rescued, the City of Houston approved its first-ever regulations for group homes. From now on, group homes will be required to register with the city, submit to criminal background checks, report criminal activity or deaths, and submit to annual fire inspections. Basically, the city is making sure that the buildings are safe and that any criminals associated with the enterprise appear on a city list.

That’s a start, but it’s not much more than a start.

No one believes those minimal, long-overdue rules will drive all the bad actors out of the business.

Instead, City Council and the mayor hope timidly that civic clubs will now identify and report unregistered group homes where abuses may be taking place and that potential group-home residents will use the city list of registered homes as a first cut, a way to make sure that a group home meets any standards at all.

The elderly, homeless and mentally ill are easy targets. Our city – and more to the point, our state – needs to monitor group homes far more closely.

It shouldn’t take years and a 911 call to close down a dungeon.

 End of Editorial

 

Since the inception of the CIT program in 1999, officers have voiced concerns about facilities that house individuals with physical and mental disabilities, such as personal care homes, assisted living facilities, group homes, and boarding homes. The list of complaints varied and ranged from inadequate training of facility personnel/staff, numerous calls-for-service to the locations, fraud, physical abuse of residents, and other criminal activity.

The Mental Health Unit (MHU), as it was originally known and structured, did not have the manpower to investigate these types of on-going problems. Once assigned to the MHU in 2010, Senior Officer Doug Anders began the task of developing and writing a city ordinance to regulate and investigate such facilities. After approximately three years of persistence on this extremely complex issue, Officer Anders succeeded in having the City’s first-ever Boarding Homes Ordinance passed and adopted by Houston’s City Council.

Officer Anders, along with Officers Chris Schuster and Vince Johnson comprise the Boarding Homes Enforcement Detail. They started enforcing the ordinance November 22, 2013.

 

3.  Firearms

Senate Bill 1189, initiated by the Houston Police Department’s Mental Health Division, was signed into law and took effect September 1, 2013. The bill gives Texas Peace Officers the authority to immediately seize any firearm found in the possession of a person being detained for emergency detention. All seizures in Houston are documented in an offense report and sent to Houston’s Firearms Investigator, Officer Charlah Woodard, who does the following:

  • sends a certified letter of the seizure to the consumer it was seized from and a family member or point of contact;
  • conducts an ATF trace of the firearm and conducts an NCIC/TCIC check of the person;
  • contacts the probate court and requests the disposition of the case;
  • if the person was not committed, provides written notice to the person that the firearm may be returned to him/her;
  • if the person was committed, provides write notice that the person is prohibited from owning, possessing, or purchasing a firearm and that the person may petition the court that  entered the commitment;
  • if prohibited, the firearm may be released to the person’s designee or sold and the proceeds will go to the person.

 

4.  Homeless Outreach Team

The Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) started as a pilot program in January 2011. It was made a permanent program in the department after a very successful six-month pilot. Sergeant Stephen Wick, the team’s current supervisor, developed and implemented the program.

HOT is comprised of one sergeant, four officers, and three mental health professional from The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD. The team helps the homeless with the following:

  • Housing
  • Social Security cards
  • Passports
  • Birth certificates
  • Shelter referrals
  • Medical equipment
  • Employment
  • Bus fare
  • Medical care
  • Mental health treatment

The team works with several organizations. The following are a few:

  • SEARCH Homeless Services
  • Lord of the Streets
  • Bread of Life
  • Palmer Way Station
  • Star of Hope
  • Salvation Army
  • Healthcare for the Homeless
  • US Vets
  • DeGeorge Veterans Housing
  • Main Street Minitries
  • Goodwill

 

5.  Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT)

Houston’s Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) started as a six-month pilot program in March 2008. The pilot was extremely successful and the program was made permanent later that year.

CIRT is Houston’s co-responder program partnering a Houston CIT officer with a masters-level licensed professional clinician from The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD. The officer and clinician attend roll-call together and ride together in a patrol car. CIRT is our highest level response to individuals in serious mental health crises. The following are the objectives of CIRT:

  • Assist officers with CIT-related calls
  • Conduct pro-active and follow-up CIT investigations
  • Respond to SWAT calls as a resource when available
  • Handle the most serious CIT calls

CIRT units ride citywide with the sole responsibility of responding to CIT-related calls; they are not in the calls-for-service loop.

Houston has 12 full-time units. To our knowledge, Houston has the largest co-responder program with the officer and clinician riding together as partners of any single police department in the nation.

 

6.  Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) Program

Houston started its Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) Program in 1999 as a pilot in the Central Patrol Division. After a successful six-month pilot, Chief of Police C. O. “Brad” Bradford ordered the program implemented in all patrol divisions. Department-wide implementation started in March 2000. By June of that year, 213 patrol officers had received the 40-hour CIT class. By January 2001, approximately 700 officers had received CIT training. As of February 2016, Houston over 2,600 CIT officers.

A Hybrid Program

Houston started its CIT program based on the Memphis model of training veteran volunteer officers and training 25 percent of the patrol force. Houston had an availability problem with having only 25 percent of its patrol force trained. The majority of CIT calls were not being responded to by CIT officers because CIT officers were not available. To address this problem, and because Houston believes CIT training is beneficial to all officers and the skills can be utilized in many different calls – not just calls involving a person in mental heatlh crisis – Houston started providing crisis intervention training to all cadets in March 2007. The cadets graduate as CIT officers. The program is voluntary for veteran officers. In the future, all Houston Police Department officers will be CIT officers.

Crisis Intervention Training vs. Crisis Intervention Team

Houston started referring to its program as the Crisis Intervention Training Program in 2013 because some citizens in the community expected a “team” of officers to respond to a situation involving a person in mental health crisis. To clarify and avoid that misconception, “Team” was replaced with “Training.”

 

7.  Crisis Call Diversion Pilot Program

The majority of the calls responded to by the Houston Police Department involving individuals in mental health  crises involves individuals who have committed no crime. We believe a percentage of these calls can be handled by professional helpline counselors. This program brings helpline counselors from The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD (The Harris Center) into the city/county dispatch facility: the  Houston Emergency Center (HEC). Callers deemed appropriate for this program will be connected immediately with a helpline counselor who may be able to resolve the person’s crisis without the need to dispatch a patrol unit.

 

8. Department of Justice Learning Site Program

Houston was one of six police departments nationwide to be selected in 2010 by the Council of State Governments as a learning site for specialized policing responses for the mentally ill. As a learning site, Houston provides information on its multi-faceted strategies for responding to individuals in serious mental health crises, hosts visitors from across the nation, and trains law enforcement and mental health personnel from across the region, state and nation. Houston started serving as a learning site in January 2011. Senior Police Officer Frank Webb and Police Officer Rebecca Skillernmake up the learning site training team.