Amidst nationwide calls for police reform after the recent death of Houston native George Floyd, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner signed an executive order Wednesday aimed at limiting the use of deadly force by the Houston Police Department.
The executive order, which can be read here, prohibits the use of neck restraints or chokeholds by HPD officers, unless “objectively necessary to prevent imminent serious bodily injury or death to the officer or others.” Floyd died May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer there pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes while Floyd was being detained under the suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a store.
“Officers shall not place their knee, foot or body weight on the neck of a suspect to control or contain the suspect’s movement,” Turner said in a news release.
Turner’s order also calls for the prioritization of de-escalation techniques and seeks to limit the practices of officers shooting at moving vehicles and executing “no-knock warrants,” requiring officers to wear body cameras when executing any arrest or search warrant. The order also requires HPD officers to intervene and report fellow officers to supervisors if they witness the use of excessive force.
“We believe that taking all these things in collaboration can help restore and maintain the confidence of the general public,” Turner said. “We want the public to know that we are responding and listening to their concerns and taking some immediate steps, which we believe will create a much better system for everyone.”
Floyd’s death has prompted large demonstrations in cities all across the U.S., including Houston, with protesters condemning racial injustice and police brutality. Turner and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo participated in a recent downtown march that included an estimated 60,000 people.
“This is a huge day because you are building trust and building legitimacy and breaking down even the perception of bad policing,” Acevedo said of the mayor’s executive order. “When we have these good policies, we build trust, and when we have trust, we build better communities.”
Also Wednesday, the eight Harris County constables said in a joint statement that they began having informal conversations about the use of force and deputies’ duty to intervene after Floyd’s death. The constables, including Alan Rosen of Precinct 1, said they met Wednesday to form a working group “focused on creating possible proactive adjustments” to their policing policies.
“We hope to work closely with law enforcement leaders, community stakeholders and institutions across Harris County to create thoughtful, meaningful change that preserves the civil rights of all while ensuring public safety,” the constables said in their statement.