The resignation of Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo came as a surprise to most Houstonians, including the mayor. The announcement also caught many Miami officials by surprise, the city that has hired Acevedo. Miami officials were conducting a nationwide search for a police chief. Acevedo had not formally applied for the job.
Apparently, Acevedo has friends in Miami City Hall. Houston City Hall was in the dark.
Acevedo informed Mayor Sylvester Turner of his decision around 5 p.m. Sunday, the mayor said at a news conference Monday, acknowledging he had received no prior hint about his police chief’s departure. Acevedo never formally applied to be Miami’s top cop and was not on anyone’s radar there, “other than just a few people at City Hall,” the Miami Herald reported Monday.
“I hate to see him leave the city of Houston,” Turner said. “But I also realize this is an excellent, extraordinary opportunity for him at a time when he is one of the nation’s leading voices in law enforcement.”
Turner said Acevedo will stay in Houston for a few more weeks. He said he would announce a new chief by the end of the week, though he declined to say whether it would be an interim or permanent replacement, or from inside the department or elsewhere. Former Chief Charles McClelland said, “There’s certainly enough talent and leadership within HPD to move forward.”
Frankly, this move is puzzling. Why would Acevedo go to Miami? The police force size is about a third of Houston’s. It was widely thought that he would run for political office, possibly mayor, since Turner is in his second and final term which expires at the end of 2023. There is no question that Acevedo is a political creature. He doesn’t miss an opportunity to slam Texas Republican politicians on social media, whether it is the state’s two GOP senators or the governor. He has come out in favor of stricter gun control restrictions and joined in with Black Lives Matter protest marches. He’s been photographed kneeling in solidarity with protesters. He endorsed Joe Biden for president, attended campaign events with Democrats, and contemplated pursuing a job with the Biden administration. He has taken on the NRA over gun violence. Now he feigns an absence of politics in his professional intentions. C’mon, man.
“Politics are not in my heart, because as you know I have no home. I piss off the left and the right, to be honest with you, because they’re both extreme,” said Acevedo, who came to Houston in late 2016 after leading the Austin Police Department. “But service is in my heart and making a difference is in my heart.”
Acevedo and his parents arrived in Miami in 1968 as immigrants from Cuba. He grew up in California and worked as the police chief in Austin before he was recruited to Houston in 2016. During his time in Houston, he has launched a national profile and is frequently a guest on television news shows. He was awarded a speaking slot during the 2020 Democrat national convention.
The job offer in Miami came with some sweet perks, including a bump in salary, so maybe he’s just cashing in now. The police force is smaller but the gig is a plum.
There, he will oversee a department of some 1,400 officers, about a quarter of the size of the Houston department. He’ll receive a pay bump — to $315,000 — along with a $50,000 relocation fee, a take-home car, and other perks, according to reports from Florida outlets.
Acevedo said his personal ties, the conversations with Miami leadership, and a desire to continue working in law enforcement motivated his decision.
“We really connected,” he said, of conversations with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and City Manager Art Noriega. Acevedo said Mayor Sylvester Turner’s dwindling time in office (his term ends January 2024) also helped sway the decision.
“When opportunity strikes, you have two choices, right?” he said. “You either seize upon an opportunity, or you don’t. When I leave I’m opening up a position with somebody else. And look, I’m not gonna … justify it. I’ve got my own family reasons, my own reasons.”
He hopes to spend at least five years in Miami, he said.
The man who says he isn’t political ended up issuing a challenge to city residents to hold the judges and the court system accountable for the rise in crime in Houston. He blames a broken criminal justice system, backlogged courts, and violent criminals issued personal recognizance bonds as the causes of a rising rate of murders. He predicts the number of murders may rise to 500 by the end of the year.
“If you want to march and you want to save lives, let’s march on the criminal courts building,” he said. “March on the DA’s office; march on the criminal justice system that is getting people hurt and getting people killed … Get those courts open. If (judges) don’t want to work, get out. We have come to work every single day with COVID. We’ve lost four firefighters, we’ve lost a police officer, to our support team members. We’ve lost family members, you come to work? Why don’t you guys go into the courts camping out and asking these judges to get out of the shadow and start answering questions.”
He’s not wrong about the bail bond “reforms” happening in the city. Criminals are being released back on the streets and crime is up.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is a Republican. It will be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out. There is an interesting editorial in the Miami Herald about Acevedo’s hiring. It notes that he is a catch for the city but the process was flawed. It’s hard to argue with that. Mayor Suarez says the secret process of hiring Acevedo was meant to protect him and Mayor Turner from embarrassment if he wasn’t hired. Turner was embarrassed, though, because the resignation was a complete surprise. Suarez wants Acevedo’s hiring to appease black Miami residents who are unhappy with the city’s police force, according to the editorial. They wanted an outsider to be the new chief, not someone promoted from within the current police force. Acevedo fits that demand.