Police Abuse

Houston Police Chief's Record Belies His Reformist Rhetoric After George Floyd's Death

If Art Acevedo had any shame, he would be engaging in less grandstanding and more introspection.


Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo is conspicuously positioning himself as an advocate of reform, transparency, and accountability following George Floyd's deadly May 25 encounter with Minneapolis cops, which set off protests across the country. But Acevedo's rhetoric is at odds with his record since he was hired to run the Houston Police Department (HPD) in 2016.

A viral video shows the police chief talking to protesters in Houston. Acevedo, who was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was 4, passionately condemns racism, calls for unity, and expresses outrage at Floyd's death. "We will march as a department with everybody in this community," he says. "I will march until I can't stand no more."

In a May 29 Washington Post op-ed piece, Acevedo acknowledges "the searing pain and anger that many Americans feel in response to the death of George Floyd," saying "the actions of the four officers involved shock the conscience, are inconsistent with the protocols of the policing profession and sabotage the law-enforcement community's tireless efforts to build public trust." He adds that "tragedies such as this one occur far too frequently in our country, especially in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods," saying "there is still much work that our profession must do to prevent more deaths like Floyd's and the destructive outrage that follows."

Acevedo, whose support for gun control has endeared him to left-leaning journalists, wants "zero tolerance for dishonesty" by cops and "wide-ranging" investigations of excessive-force allegations, considering not only the legality of police conduct but also "whether there were opportunities to de-escalate." He says officers, including police union officials, "must stand against corruption and abuse in their midst." He recommends revising "collective bargaining agreements" that impede "swift terminations" of "bad cops" and measures aimed at preventing those officers from being hired by other law enforcement agencies.

These are all good ideas. But Acevedo does not necessarily practice what he preaches.

Writing in the Texas Monthly, Michael Hardy notes that Acevedo has paid lip service to bail reform, saying arrestees should not be kept behind bars simply because they are poor. Yet he has actively resisted attempts to reduce pretrial detention, even as the Harris County jail has become a hotbed of COVID-19 infection. Hardy also contrasts Acevedo's verbal support for peaceful protesters with his department's heavy-handed treatment of them.

Another person who noticed Acevedo's public pose as a reform-minded police chief was John Nicholas, who is still waiting for answers about a January 2019 raid in which Houston narcotics officers killed his sister, Rhogena Nicholas, and her husband, Dennis Tuttle, at their home on Harding Street. "Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo seem to have all the answers about police killings and injustice around the nation," Nicholas writes in a Houston Chronicle op-ed piece published last week. "Their strident, authoritative comments about failed policing and keeping the peace in other cities and states leave quite an impression. Yet, in Houston, their continued silence about the murderous Harding Street no-knock raid by Houston police that killed my sister Rhogena Nicholas, her husband and their dog 16 months ago also speaks volumes."

The raid, which was based on a warrant alleging that Tuttle and Nicholas were selling heroin, stank to high heaven from the beginning. According to the official police account, the officers killed Tuttle and Nicholas during a gun battle that began after the cops stormed into the house and used a shotgun to kill the couple's dog.

Acevedo said Tuttle fired at the officers with a revolver, and he suggested that Tuttle must have known the armed invaders breaking into his home were police officers. But the cops, who were not wearing uniforms, knocked in the front door of the house at the same moment they supposedly announced themselves, then immediately fired a shotgun. At the time, a lawyer for Nicholas' family later said, she and Tuttle were napping in their bedroom. In these circumstances—which are similar to what happened during the Louisville, Kentucky, raid that killed Breonna Taylor last March—it is plausible that Tuttle thought he was defending his home against criminals.

Sixteen months later, it is still not clear who fired the shots that struck the four officers who were wounded by gunfire during the Harding Street raid. Yet Acevedo indignantly rejected the suggestion that they might have been hit by friendly fire. He also hailed the officers as "heroes," posthumously tarred Tuttle and Nicholas as dangerous criminals, and claimed that people who lived nearby had thanked the police for taking action against a locally notorious "drug house." That claim was inconsistent with the accounts of actual neighbors and the results of the search, which found no evidence of drug dealing. It also seemed odd that Gerald Goines, the officer who obtained the warrant, supposedly had been investigating the alleged heroin operation for two weeks but did not even know Tuttle's name.

Acevedo, in short, reflexively defended his officers, despite evidence that the warrant was fishy and that the raid was reckless at best. Later it emerged that Goines had lied in his search warrant affidavit, describing a heroin purchase that never happened by a confidential informant who did not exist. He now faces state murder charges and federal civil rights charges in connection with the deadly raid. Another narcotics officer, Steven Bryant, also faces state and federal charges for backing up the story that Goines concocted to obtain the warrant.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office, which is reviewing drug cases that Goines handled, so far has identified 164 dubious convictions. One of them involved none other than George Floyd, a Houston native whom Goines arrested in 2004 for allegedly selling him a small amount of crack cocaine. Floyd pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 months in jail.

Acevedo wants credit for uncovering Goines' deadly dishonesty. "What would have been more tragic for this community, and for this department, than the incident itself is for the department to have failed to investigate it to the extent that we did," he told former Houston Chronicle reporter Keri Blakinger, who covered the fallout from the Harding Street raid, in a Texas Monthly interview last February. He also wants credit for the reforms he announced after the raid, including high-level approval for no-knock search warrants and a requirement that narcotics officers wear body cameras during raids.

The dangers of no-knock raids, especially in cases involving nonviolent crimes, have been a subject of national discussion for decades. The importance of body cameras in documenting what happened when raids go horribly wrong likewise was widely recognized long before Acevedo decided that his drug warriors should wear them. In this case, body camera footage could have clarified the circumstances that led to the senseless deaths of two people. Acevedo's belated adoption of these policies hardly makes him look like a forward-thinking reformer.

Nor does Acevedo's insistence that the crimes committed by Goines and Bryant did not reflect a "systemic" problem within the HPD's Narcotics Division or the department generally. The HPD employed Goines for 34 years, and prosecutors so far have sought dismissal of 164 drug cases he instigated over a period of at least 15 years. It is hard to believe that no one else was complicit in Goines' shady practices spanning more than a decade, either by actively assisting him, by looking the other way, or by failing to adequately supervise his activities. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg says her office is investigating "other officers" in Goines' squad.

A few weeks after the disastrous operation that killed Nicholas and Tuttle, Acevedo  promised he would "leave no stone unturned to determine the good, the bad and the ugly." John Nicholas has his doubts:

When will the city finally tell the truth about—or even address—the killings of my sister and her husband? When will the city release any of the forensic and ballistics information, statements by Houston Police Department personnel that may or may not support the city's stories and evidence on the ground, the audit of narcotics units and disciplinary action, if any, taken against its managers?

Although the Harris County District Attorney's Office is reviewing cases that relied on the testimony of Gerald Goines, when will the police department carry out a full review of the entire unit and its managers with full accountability? How many other families were victimized by the decades-long corruption of HPD Narcotics Unit 15?

How high did knowledge of the illicit activities of HPD officers Goines and Steven Bryant go in the police department?

Our independent investigation found evidence that an HPD shooter fired blindly through the home's walls and into the house, including the likely fatal shot at my sister on her own couch. Who killed my sister in the barrage of bullets fired from outside her home?

What happened to the evidence our family's independent investigation of the killing developed? Why does the question of "friendly fire" and the likelihood that my sister was shot blindly while seated on her couch remain unanswered?

Acevedo's response to the Harding Street raid—including his praise of the officers responsible for it; his credulous acceptance of Goines' dubious justification for the warrant; his casual defamation of Nicholas and Tuttle; his automatic rejection of the possibility that officers shot each other; his bizarre insistence, even after Goines' search-warrant fraud was revealed, that the cops "had probable cause to be there"; his denial of systemic problems; and the stonewalling described by Nicholas—is not exactly a model of the transparency and accountability he claims to favor. If Acevedo had any shame, his reaction to the death of George Floyd would have featured less grandstanding and more introspection.

NEXT: When Should Force Be Used To Protect Public Health?

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  1. Trump needs to deport this beaner!

    1. Seriously, I saw a segment on CBS News where Gayle King was fawning over Art’s interaction with the black community. I’m sure Miss King was completely ignorant of the fake drug raid that resulted in the death of two Houstonians.

      1. I guess there are some things even you can’t be sarcastic about.

        1. I hate the narrative that the media promotes today. Blacks are incapable of wrong doing and white are inherently stained by the original sin of slavery. On top of that, if you attempt to question or criticize the narrative, you’ll find yourself facing the wrath of an internet lynch mob that only cares about squashing dissent. Most employers would rather cut their loses by firing a troublesome employee than defend them in the public market against a mob shouting “racist”, “fascist”, and “Nazi”. This destroys the market place of ideas because people are too afraid to voice their opinions out of fear of being harassed until they’re out of a job. Better to remain silent and employed while truth is displayed by a liberal narrative. How can anyone fight back against this?

          1. You can’t fight against it, because they engineer the rules to suit their goals. And the second they no longer aid them in achieving those goals, or also aid anyone they perceive as adversarial, they toss out those rules and proclaim new rules and new offenses.
            They are terrible, awful, evil people using injustice as an excuse to indulge their garbage natures.

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      2. No segment you saw on CBS was serious – – – –

        1. I thought just a few years ago CBS was somewhat respectable. Given I typically don’t watch television but the fact that all mainstream media outlets are pushing the same flawed narrative is just crazy. If BLM protestors were serious about police reform, you would think they would try and build a coalition with multiple groups, regardless of race. They have yet to promote a serious legislative or policy changes that would prevent police abuse – in my opinion, they are anarchists looking for a handout from white Americans.

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    2. Mexicans are beaners, not Cubans. Mexican beans conquered the world. I don’t consider being a beaner a racist insult, I rather like being a beaner . I like beans too, even Cuban beans, black beans with garlic. But let’s not conflate our ethnic slurs. As far as Cubans go, the only thing that comes to mind is “the Jews of Latin America”. Which is not exactly an insult, unless you don’t like Jews.

      1. “Mexicans are beaners, not Cubans. ”

        Like I’m gonna let some spic tell me how to insult fruit picker.

        1. Spics are Puerto Ricans

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      2. Yes but if you really want to insult a Cuban (or a Honduran, Costa Rican…) you call them a Mexican beaner because it plays off of their own hatred of Mexicans.

  2. Acevedo is a dirtbag. Expect him to run for higher political office soon.

    He has long been a gun control supporter. According to Acevedo, if a woman is carrying a gun, it will be taken from her and used to kill her. It would be better if she were a sexual assault survivor instead!

    Acevedo taking heat online for comments on ‘Campus Carry’

    “We potentially are turning sexual assault victims — that we have a lot of resources to help these young people…turn into survivors through our victims services and so forth into potentially…murder victims,” Acevedo said.

    Senator Brian Birdwell, the author of the Campus Carry bill questioned him on that.

    “Correct me if I’m wrong but it sounded as if you said you would rather have a woman go through rape survival counseling than murder recovery,” Birdwell said.

    Acevedo was quick to correct the Senator.

    “I don’t want a woman to end up…not just a sex assault victim…but ends up being murdered with her own firearm because they haven’t put in the training, the retention, the weapons retention,” Acevedo said.

    1. I notice no one in this ‘discussion’ quotes the second amendment.

    2. In other words, lie back and enjoy it.

    3. Who tries to take away someone’s gun, let alone succeeds? I mean when someone pulls a gun they almost always win. I know that Jet Li takes someone’s gun in every one of his movies but in real life it’s not so easy?

      1. But what if Jet Li is the attacker? Since we can never rule Jet Li out as a potential assailant, women should not have guns.

  3. “When will the city release any of the forensic and ballistics information, statements by Houston Police Department personnel that may or may not support the city’s stories”

    If they supported the city’s stories they would have been released.

  4. If Acevedo had any shame he’d never have gotten as far as he has. At the upper levels, law enforcement is more politics than policing and Acevedo is a politician rather than a cop.

    1. A gun-grabbing loyal Democrat Hispanic. How can the media and liberal intelligentsia NOT love the man?

      1. He is a registered Republican.

        Keep going.

        1. He’s a gun-grabbing RINO, no better than Mitt Romney or John McCain. That is even better since the media can claim that there is bipartisan support for confiscating firearms lawfully owned by Americans.

        2. And?

          What do his actions say about him dumbass?

          JFC it’s like you people have never been lied to before

  5. “Nearly three-quarters of Democrats, 74%, said it may take the next year or even longer to curb Covid-19 and return to work as normal. By contrast, among President Trump’s strongest supporters within the Republican Party, 32% said the coronavirus is already contained.

    About half of all Republicans, 48%, said they were more concerned about the protests than the circumstances of Mr. Floyd’s killing, while 81% of Democrats held the opposite opinion.

    “Those crises appear to have had little impact on Mr. Trump’s standing. His job approval rating stood at 45%, down 1 percentage point from April, according to the poll . . . .

    Mr. Trump’s biggest advantage over Mr. Biden continued to surround economic issues. When asked who would be best at cutting the unemployment rate and getting people back to work, voters picked Mr. Trump, 48% to 35%

    —-Wall Street Journal/NBC Poll, June 7, 2020


    I keep trying to tell people that the riots and police and COVID-19 won’t be the issue in November, but none of them even appear to be the biggest issue now.

    40 million Americans have lost their jobs since the beginning of April, and President Trump’s job approval rating has dropped by 1%, That is nothing short of astounding.

    Five months from now, police reform will be about as hot a topic as last year’s Superbowl. Don’t believe the hype.

    1. The same localities that tell people it is illegal to have a wedding or go to their sister’s funeral, just allowed thousands of people to march in the streets to protest George Floyd. This has not gone unnoticed. The state and local governments are using COVID as a way to pick and choose what public assembly and expressions are allowed. So, the only issue COVID is going to create is the public revulsion over this hypocrisy and downright illegal behavior.

      1. It’s also important to remember, when we see national polls, that it doesn’t matter if 80% of the people in California, Minneapolis, and New York are up in arms about police reform. The election will be decided in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and if the issue four out of five of those states was jobs forty years, ago, was jobs forty months ago, and will be jobs four months from now. The biggest news impacting the election in November wasn’t the riots or the demonstrations. It was the surprise jobs report on Friday–showing that 2 million+ jobs were created, when everyone was expecting the unemployment rate to spike even higher.

        1. If the economy continues to turn around, Trump will be able to say he saw the country to the pandemic and the riots. That is a pretty good record to run on especially when you consider the Democrats are going to run on lock downs forever and abolishing local police departments.

          1. And he took out Suleimani.
            Needs to be remembered

        2. In fact, I’m tempted to say that the reason Trump’s approval rating hasn’t declined despite 40 million Americans losing their jobs is probably because the Democrats are so focused on social justice issues. Police brutality is a terrible thing that no one supports. Suburban women feel terrible about police brutality, I’m sure, but they also care about other things–like whether she’s about to lose her home if she or her spouse loses their jobs. Trump just spent the last four years fighting with everybody from Mexico to Canada, and China in the name of getting more jobs for people in the Midwest. I don’t know what Biden’s response is to that because social justice is all the Democrats talk about anymore.

          1. His approval rating didn’t go down because everyone knows people lost their jobs because of the lock downs and it was Democrats who wanted those and refuse to lift them. It is pretty hard to blame Trump if you are out of work in say North Carolina and your Democratic governor just vetoed a bill that would allow restaurants to serve outdoors. Trump is adept enough that he made sure the Democrats not him owned the lock downs.

            1. It’s like the progressive are stuck in feedback loop. They see themselves on television, and it makes them think what they’re doing is popular. Remember how that Tiger guy documentary was really hot on Netflix? And before that I think it was The Witcher They’re so over now.

              In Minneapolis, they’re really going through with disbanding the police department. I’d love to think that will end with peace and harmony for all mankind, but I’m the kind of libertarian who thinks that the purpose of government is to protect our rights from things like criminals, and when you disband the police and fail to do that, the result isn’t peace and harmony. It’s out of control crime and support for crackdowns.

              I haven’t seen the Democrats this delusional since they thought a recount in 2016 would get rid of the electoral college. IF IF IF Trump wins again in November, we’ll probably see rioting again. They’re so detached from reality right about now, I’m not sure what happens when they wake up. You know how they say you should never wake up a sleepwalker? They can lash out at the people who woke them up. That’s the situation we’re looking at here.

              They’re going to disband the police department in Minneapolis!!!

              “A majority of the Minneapolis City Council vowed on Sunday to disband the local police department and replace the office with what members have said will be a new model of public safety, The New York Times reports.”


              1. They must be out of their god damn minds.

              2. Members of the council told the paper they plan to work with the local community to develop the new system following the death of George Floyd.

                I bet the Somalis have some great ideas!

                1. Bender repeated that vow on Twitter later Thursday and pledged that the council would also replace the office with what she described then as “a transformative new model of public safety.”


              3. I don’t think it will actually happen. Someone with brains will step in, right? Or are they hoping to create such a crisis that the feds get involved? What is the end game here?

                1. They have a veto proof majority.

                  They’re going full retard, and nothing can stop them.

                  1. Never go full retard.

                    Ye Gods.

              4. “what members have said will be a new model of public safety”

                Lol, the Committee of Public Safety? Seriously?? Are they having us on?
                Is it the 14th of Frimaire?

                They better watch out for the 9th of Thermidor in Year 2. Shit’ll get real fast for them.

                I feel like I’m living in a planet-wide episode of Punked.

                1. We’re all waiting for Allen Funt to hop out from behind the bushes.

              5. “Why not try diplomacy first? Why resort to force right away?” They are also talking about imposing “restorative justice,” where you sit down with the person who burglarized your home so they can understand how that theft hurt you and maybe come up with some way they can pay you back. How that burglar will be apprehended and forced to attend the RJ meeting is so far not explained.

            2. How did the Democrats fall for this?

              1. They can’t help themselves.

  6. “I will march until I can’t stand no more.”

    Double negative. The slippery bastard.

    Acevedo has learned what so many others in power have. If you pay lip service to left causes, you get fawning press coverage no matter your reality.

  7. The best way to reduce killings of Americans of non European or Asian background is to halt the war on drugs…how many AA are killed in a year in Chicago? Houston, NYC, Atlanta and so on…just end it already..then police and all govt unions..that would do more than a “national dialog” on race which will be a lecture not a dialog

    1. Should we end all arrests for non-violent crimes? What level of anarchy is acceptable to have the BLM crowd placated?

      1. Nice false dichotomy.

      2. There’s a difference between non-violent crimes and victimless crimes. And yes, all victimless crimes should be abolished.

    2. The best way to reduce killings of Americans of non European or Asian background is to halt the war on drugs

      I’ve got a local news app that gives me alerts for every homicide and other awful crimes. There’s no way more than 20% of those are related to the drug trade, even in a ‘double bankshot’ ‘big brained
      theory’ kinda way. AFAICT the single best way to stop murders is to somehow get rid of all the dice.

    3. Most blacks in Chicago aren’t killed by cops. They’re killed by other blacks. We can have massive riots across the country because one black man was killed by a sadist, and possibly racist, cop. But we’re not allowed to talk about systemic black on black violence that kills more people in Chicago alone than some war zones.

  8. But Acevedo does not necessarily practice what he preaches.

    Sullum, you must be English. Because that is a MASSIVE understatement.

    Anyway, what’s with the equivocation – there is no doubt that Acevedo doesn’t practice what he preaches.

  9. All anyone will remember is that Houston’s police prevented mass riots by arresting hundreds of people as soon as they started causing trouble. They also refused to arrest people during COVID (remember that?) for being out in public without masks even though Houston’s Democrat leadership claimed they had the right to do so.

    That’s going to be the only real takeaway from all this in Houston.

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  10. Assevedo ran a thuggish PD in Austin and brought his totalitarianism to Houston

    1. He didn’t bring anything new to Houston. He just stood in front and allowed the thugs to do what they always did. Goines (piece of shit cop) was there for 34 years.

      Again, too many bad laws means you have to hire lots of cops to enforce them and too few are qualified, many of those will be thugs.

      Victimless crime is oxymoronic. Non violent crimes should result in a ticket.

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