HOUSTON (KIAH) — Houston leaders gathered Tuesday at Houston City Hall to discuss the newly enacted Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and Houston Police Chief Troy Finner. The law was signed into effect on December 27, 2022, and aims to equip law enforcement officers and mental health professionals with specialized de-escalation training to enhance public safety.
During the roundtable discussion, community leaders shared how the Task Force on Police Reform, appointed by Mayor Turner in 2020, has supported the Houston Police Department’s increased de-escalation training efforts. Participants discussed how collaboration between local law enforcement, mental health providers, and community advocates has helped develop effective training programs and responses that can serve as a national example for other jurisdictions to follow.
The Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act authorizes $124 million in federal grant funding over four years for expanded training programs to equip law enforcement officers and mental health professionals with de-escalation tactics and alternatives to use of force. The U.S. Department of Justice is currently implementing the new law, which directs the agency to identify and develop de-escalation training curricula with input from law enforcement, mental health providers, civil rights and civil liberties organizations, and other community advocates. Once the curricula are finalized, the grant funding will be made available to state and local law enforcement agencies to train their officers using the curricula.
Sen. Cornyn and Mayor Turner also observed a virtual demonstration of de-escalation training techniques taught to HPD cadets and current officers during the roundtable. The virtual demonstration showed how de-escalation training can enhance public safety by equipping officers with non-violent alternatives to use of force.
The event was attended by a number of community leaders and stakeholders, including Craig Bellamy, Commander–Training Division, Houston Police Department; Crystal Okorafor, Deputy Inspector General, City of Houston’s Office of Policing Reform and Accountability; Doug Griffith, President, Houston Police Officers Union/Sr. Police Officer; Brenda LaVar, Board President, National Alliance on Mental Illness Greater Houston; Larry Payne, Chair, Mayor Turner’s Task Force on Police Reform; Bishop James Dixon II, Pastor, Community of Faith Church & President, NAACP Houston Branch; and Judson Robinson III, President & CEO, Houston Area Urban League.
The Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act was developed following a meeting in 2020 between Sen. Cornyn and Mayor Turner, where they sought solutions to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Input from that discussion was incorporated into the new law, which aims to enhance public safety and promote positive interactions between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.