Peace Out

Where For Art Thou ... Miami?

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo is departing.

By Catherine Wendlandt and Gwendolyn Knapp March 15, 2021

Image: Daniel Kramer

In a Sunday night email sent to colleagues, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo announced that he's leaving Houston to run the Miami Police Department.  During a press conference on Monday morning, March 15, he was announced the new chief of police of Miami (their previous chief resigned in February).

"I was not looking for this opportunity when it arose," Acevedo wrote in that internal email sent on Sunday. "But with the end (of) Mayor Turner's final term in office fast approaching, and my strong desire to continue serving as a police officer, we decided the timing for this move was good."

Known for his unabashed Twitter feed, political swagger, and as a proponent of community policing, Acevedo arrived at HPD in November 2016 after about nine years running the Austin Police Department. He came up through the ranks of the California Highway Patrol in the 1980s and '90s. 

In a press conference Monday morning, Mayor Sylvester Turner commended Acevedo's service to Houston over the past five years. He praised Acevedo for being “out on the street” during major incidents over his tenure, like Hurricane Harvey or last month's winter storm. Turner also applauded the police chief for attending and speaking with people on the streets during the march for George Floyd last June.

“Art was the right person for the right time," in Houston history, Turner said, stating Acevedo reflected the diversity of the city. 

So, who will take over? 

Turner, who spoke with the police chief about the move on Sunday afternoon, said that he would announce who will take over for Acevedo later this week. He said he's looking for someone who will be very focused on managing the Houston police force, strategically utilizing resources, and getting on top of crime. 

“It won’t necessarily be the same person," Turner said, speaking to Acevedo's over the top personality. But he wants someone who can operate in a diverse community and can gain trust.

Acevedo will remain in Houston for the next couple of weeks while the city transitions. In the meantime, it's likely that executive assistant chiefs Matt Slinkard and Troy Finner will take over Acevedo's duties. Together, the pair have close to 60 years of experience with HPD. Slinkard began his HPD career straight out of the police academy in 1994; he became executive assistant chief in 2017. Finner was born in Fifth Ward, but grew up in the Hiram Clarke area. He graduated from James Madison High School in 1985 and has been with HPD for around 30 years. 

What does this mean for Houston? 

Crime went down when Acevedo first took over HPD in 2016, but it has been creeping back up throughout the pandemic. Houston has about 56 crimes per 1,000 residents, one of the highest rates in the country, according to ABC13. And in 2019, a botched drug raid led to the killing of a southeast Houston couple and their dog—two years later, 12 officers have since been indicted by a grand jury, and the families of the couple have sued the city and cops involved.

Still, Turner believes that HPD is in better shape than it was five years ago, and that there will "always be things left on the table" when someone leaves.  As the police department and the city move forward, Turner said they will be very intentional on building an institution that can outlast any one person, repeating, “This ship moves forward.”

Although Turner admitted he did not know Acevedo was leaving until their phone call yesterday, he was calm and collected during his press conference today. He joked about how he couldn't be mad at Miami considering he nabbed Acevedo from Austin; he also said he did not fault the police chief for taking advantage of this opportunity.

“Look, I understand,” Turner said. “Everybody is here for a particular season. No one is here forever.” 

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