Mayor Sylvester Turner mourned with the community and looked to the future by participating in vigils, peace rallies and discussing anti-violence strategies with clergy, community organizations and Houston hip hop artists.
He shared his sentiments in a statement on July 17.
“There have been too many senseless acts over the past couple of months. This cannot become our new normal,” he said. “I know tensions remain high but I ask that everyone lower their temperature as we search for a way forward. We have to come together because no one wins when there is violence.”
In a July 11 editorial in the Houston Chronicle, Turner called for unity and warned against judging a group of people based on the actions of individuals.
“I've been unable to sleep. Too many lives have been taken, too many families destroyed. I pray for the loved ones of every officer killed in Dallas, and I pray for the loved ones of those who lost their lives in Baton Rouge and Minnesota,” Turner wrote.
He also outlined the measures Houston Police Department has taken to ensure peaceful and positive police-citizen interactions.
“Houston has taken steps to enhance trust between law enforcement and the community. Earlier this year, Houston became the largest city to begin deployment of body cameras for all of our uniformed officers,” Turner wrote. “We are depending on these cameras to show us what really happened. If a motorist shows signs of being impaired, we will see it on the video. If there is a domestic violence incident occurring when officers arrive on scene, we will see it on the video. If the suspect has a gun pulled and pointed at an officer, we will see it on the video. And, if an officer misuses or abuses his or her authority, we will see it on the video. This is another step; it is not the answer.
“HPD is also making strides in the area of training. All cadets currently receive eight hours in de-escalation training. As of September 2015, this is also mandatory for all existing officers. This training includes techniques for improving communication, using cover and concealment, creating distance and slowing the situation down.
“The police chief meets regularly with ethnically and culturally diverse community, religious, academic and business leaders, to address issues and concerns impacting their respective communities and connect them with the appropriate contacts within HPD to help resolve their issues. Likewise, HPD's Police and Clergy Alliance provides an opportunity for local religious leaders to support HPD- sponsored programs and initiatives, assist victims of crime and mentor at-risk-youth. The goal is to maintain and foster an open-door policy for positive police and citizen interactions.”
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Here is a snapshot of the outpouring of community support and concern captured through social media: