Houston police chief announces retirement amid scandal regarding 264,000 suspended cases

The City of Houston now has a new interim police chief after the former chief abruptly announced his resignation earlier this week amid a scandal related to an unusually high volume of suspended criminal investigations.

In February, then-Chief Troy Finner acknowledged that an internal code, “lack of personnel,” had been used liberally by the department to suspend cases. Since 2016, the code has been used some 264,000 times, as Blaze News previously reported.

“This is unacceptable, look into it and follow up with me.”

Finner claimed he first learned about the apparent abuse of the code in November 2021, about eight months after he had been appointed chief, and immediately ordered the department to stop using it. That order must have been largely ignored as the cases suspended for “lack of personnel” continued, resulting in about 4,000 adult sexual assault reports that were never investigated.

Since February, the scandal of the suspended cases has continued to dog Finner, but on Tuesday, the situation reached a fevered pitch as KHOU revealed that Finner had participated in an email conversation that mentioned the code in July 2018, more than three years before he claimed he’d heard about it.

In the email, dated July 20, 2018, then-Chief of Staff George Mixon wrote that a Houston police officer had used the code in a hit-and-run case even though the report contained “a full license plate and suspect description.” Finner, who was then the executive assistant chief, responded: “[Vehicular Crimes Division Commander Kevin Deese], this is unacceptable, look into it and follow up with me.”

When asked about the email on Tuesday, Finner claimed he had no recollection of it. “Do you expect anybody to remember everything in every email that comes through? That’s totally, totally unreasonable,” he said.

Finner also indicated that the email would not tarnish his reputation or affect his position as chief. “To try to tie that to, like, you know, I’m being untruthful or something like that, it’s not going to work,” he said.

At around 7 p.m., the department’s X account shared a formal statement from Finner, which read in part: “Even though the phrase ‘suspended lack of personnel’ was included in this 2018 email, there is nothing that alerted me to its existence as a code or how it was applied within the department.”

However, Houston Mayor John Whitmire called for an independent panel to investigate the issue, signaling that Finner’s job was likely in jeopardy.

Around 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Whitmire announced that Finner had decided to retire, effective immediately. Whitmire then named executive assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite to be acting police chief.

“This decision comes with full confidence in Acting Chief Satterwhite’s abilities to lead and uphold the high standards of our department,” the mayor’s statement said.

Whitmire also addressed the personnel change at a city council meeting on Wednesday morning. “I want to thank Chief Finner for his many years of public service,” he said.

“I’ll have more to say, probably in a press availability, as how this transpired. But, it’s my responsibility to provide public safety for all Houstonians. And, the decision was made.”

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