Article written by: Manu Shah
Photography by: Bijay Dixit, Unique Photo Images
On April 11, Houston’s top cop Art Acevedo delivered a strong message about “relational policing” and his efforts to build a rapport of trust with the community. As Keynote Speaker at the IACCGH Distinguished Lecture Series, Chief Acevedo’s impassioned address about his aim to serve and make Houston safe for everyone came across as genuinely caring, sincere and determined in working with the community to make a difference.
The event which was sponsored by Shell was hosted at the Indian consulate and attended by representatives from several economic development agencies, IACCGH members and guests.
Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia welcomed the gathering and described the Chamber as an “inclusive Chamber representing the community.” Diversity, he emphasized, is what “Houston is all about and what the Chamber is all about.” He also thanked the Consulate for hosting the event.
Deputy Consul General of India in Houston, Surendra Adhana lauded the contributions of the Indo American community and promised the Consulate’s support to the community and the HPD in all their endeavors.
Greeting the gathering with a cheerful “Namaste,” Chief Acevedo opened up about the police department’s struggles and challenges in ensuring public safety with a taskforce of only 5100 police officers. He compared this figure with Chicago’s taskforce of 13000 officers despite the city being geographically smaller than Houston.
A shrinking department is the reason, he clarified, why calls to 911 don’t always get a quick response. The response time for an emergency is under 5 minutes but could be longer for less serious situations. The necessity of deploying the limited resources in an effective way and the prioritization of going after violent crime rather than minor misdemeanors, he added, called for such measures.
Chief Acevedo also reflected that deeper engagement with the community starts with the police chief which is why he is focused on reaching out to community members at every opportunity he gets and being on crime scenes or patrol beats whenever possible to “send the message” that Houston’s police department is there to serve.
Alluding to the “ugly political rhetoric” about undocumented workers in the country, he highlighted their contributions to the economy and called on the gathering to speak out against this stance. An unfortunate outcome of this rhetoric, he observed, has resulted in a glaring drop in the reporting of rape by undocumented workers for fear of being deported.
Chief Acevedo also highlighted the proposed pension reforms and stressed the importance of providing a pension plan for “all the men and women who put their lives on the line” for public safety day after day.
Concluding his address, he stated that he was “here to do his job, not keep it” and held out the guarantee that the day he leaves, the department would “be in better shape” than when he came.
Shell VP Fred Whipple thanked Chief Acevedo for his leadership and expressed his gratitude for the sacrifices “you and your families make to keep Houston safe.”
Jagdip Ahluwalia did note that that the Chamber has had a long term relationship with the HPD and their main contact over the years, till he retired, was Assistant Chief John Chen. The retired Chief had addressed the community at several IACCGH events in the Hillcroft/Harwin area and has been extremely responsive regarding any safety and security issues.
The Chamber was pleased to welcome and introduce his successor Assistant Police Chief Henry Gaw who will henceforth be the point of contact for the community.