As part of its efforts to support police reform, activists associated with Black Lives Matter have been collecting use of force policies from around the country, and posting them online as part of the broader Campaign Zero effort.
However, one particular use of force policy, from the HPD, came highly redacted when it was requested by Deray McKesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist. When the Houston Press requested the same document, they received a copy that wasn't.
A spokesperson for the HPD, Victor Senties, told the Press the redactions were to protect officer safety and police tactics. Among the redactions were that officers are required to carry batons when responding to disturbance calls and when working major events, that cops must get immediate medical attention to victims they've pepper sprayed and call a supervisor immediately, and that cops are prohibited from firing warning shoots or shooting at fleeing or suicidal suspects who don't pose an imminent threat to anyone other than themselves.
The Press reached out to HPD for comment, and was told that all record requests go through the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), and that decision was therefore made by them. "I'm not going to speak to the policy and explain what's redacted and what's not redacted," Senties told the Press. "It goes up to the AG. They're ones who make those determinations."
Reason filed an open records request for any records related to a request made by Deray McKesson to the Houston Police Department for the use of policy, including any correspondence between HPD and OAG or OAG and McKesson, since McKesson said he had never received a letter from OAG explaining the redaction decisions, which would have been standard operating procedure.
Today, the OAG told Reason that while they have requests from McKesson during the relevant time period, none involve HPD. Senties reiterated to Reason that all requests for records go through the attorney general, and that HPD open records division receives up to 800 requests a month. According to McKesson, HPD responded to his request with the heavily redacted copy just a week after he made it. OAG responded to our request for relevant records in a little over 24 hours.
In the meantime, a Texas assistant attorney general offered the most likely explanation—that the HPD may have already had a previous determination from OAG about how to redact the use of force document. In that case, they would have been able to use the previous ruling and redact the document the same way for Mckesson. That doesn't explain how the Press received a different copy, but those are questions for HPD, not OAG, to answer.
UPDATE: The version of the use of force policy Mckesson released was originally written in 2008. When it was subject to an open records request then, OAG approved its release in the redacted form. That version was released for all future requests, including Mckesson's, until the use of force policy was revised last September. It was first requested in December, and was released unredacted. That is the version the Press received when it made its request last month.