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Houston Police Chief Leaves To Take Up Top Job In Miami

Houston police chief Art Acevedo looks on during a press conference following a tour of the NRG Center evacuation center on Sept. 4, 2017, in Houston, Texas. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Houston police chief Art Acevedo looks on during a press conference following a tour of the NRG Center evacuation center on Sept. 4, 2017, in Houston, Texas. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Art Acevedo considers policing part of his DNA.

Now, 35 years after he started the police academy, the Houston police chief is moving on to lead the Miami Police Department.

“I think Miami is an amazing city as a Cuban refugee whose journey into this beautiful country and the freedom that this country brought us started in Miami,” Acevedo says. “It’s kind of like coming full circle.”

Acevedo gained national attention last summer when he stood in solidarity with people protesting the death of George Floyd — once a Houston resident — at the hands of Minneapolis police.

However, his department arrested more than 600 of those protesters during the first week of protests.

Acevedo says that while he supports the First Amendment right of protest, he doesn’t support the violence he saw in Houston.

“The other piece is you don’t get to start breaking windows and you don’t get to start throwing rocks. You don’t get to vandalize,” he says. “You know, First Amendment activity is about protest, and criminal activity is about vandalism and violence. And we cannot tolerate that.”

By leaving Houston, Acevedo says he’s creating an opportunity for one of his executive assistants to continue to serve the community as police chief.

He has family in Miami and hopes that more relatives will move there as well. He’s also looking forward to helping strengthen the Miami Police Department. While in Houston, he worked to become an agent of change, though he admits he wasn’t always perfect.

“But if you gauge where we were at as an organization and where we were at when I left, I would argue that we’ve left places in a better place,” he says.

In recent years, police killings in Houston have gained attention. Six people were killed by police in six years, and Acevedo blocked the release of body cam footage of the incidents.

The reason for that, Acevedo says, is that police executives have a responsibility to follow the process in place and officers are held accountable for misconduct.

But Acevedo says a newly-appointed Houston district attorney approved of releasing videos. Now they’re awaiting the mayor’s permission.

During a recent news conference, Acevedo mentioned that Houston can expect 500 more homicides in the next year. In spite of the grim number, Acevedo says he doesn’t take that as a sign he’s failed, but instead an admission that there’s a problem.

Acevedo adds that “activist judges and prosecutors” are prone to treating everyone “like they’re shoplifters, including murderers.”

“Over 100 individuals were murdered last year in the city of Houston by suspects that were out on bond for, most of them, for violent crimes,” he says.

Acevedo also says there’s a circular criminal justice system where criminals are arrested, but go on to commit more crimes after their release. Acevedo says the police department is doing their job and everyone else needs to do theirs.

“You cannot keep people and keep turning them loose that are committing violence and letting the same people time and again be part of the problem,” he says.

Mark Navin produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd MundtJeannette Jones adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.