By: Manu Shah
“Representing the dedicated men and women who keep the city safe”, Houston’s Chief of Police Charles McClelland was the Keynote Speaker at the Distinguished Lecture Series organized by IACCGH. The event, sponsored by Shell, was held on 29th July at Westin Oaks. The Chief of Police was accompanied by Assistant Chief John Chen and Senior Police Officer Muzaffar Siddiqi.
IACCGH Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia described the Chamber as an “inclusive Chamber,” and cited the number of organizations present in the room such as the Asian Chamber, MITDC, ALF, Anjuman e Shujaee, ASIE and other members and guests. He also thanked sponsors Shell for being “the backbone of several IACCGH events.”
A one minute silence was held to mark the death of the 11th President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
38 years of commitment to public service, to making a difference in the community helped Charles McClelland rise from a patrol officer to his current position as Chief of Police. IACCGH President Ashok Garg introduced the Chief of Police by stating that “some men are better introduced by their actions” and Chief McClelland was known as “being fair with people, taking care of business and taking decisions quickly.”
In his address, the Chief stated that there are over 5000 police officers, about 14,000 surveillance support and an $800 million budget to keep Houston safe. Minorities make up about 53% of the police force and 70% of the support staff. 15% are women and 1200 officers are bilingual.
Admitting that “some days are better than others,” the Chief stated that despite all its challenges, Houston is one of the safest places in America. He also said that there is too much gun violence in society and minor drug offences must be handled differently than they are being done presently. He believes that rather than locking everyone that commits a crime, we must put more money into crime prevention, treatment, education and job training.
The Chief also pointed out that we as a society must question why young minorities are dropping out of school, have a high unemployment rate and drug problems. Minorities must be given the opportunities and the means to earn a livelihood and a second chance to reintegrate themselves in society.
The community engagement and community policing that’s been in place since the 80’s has ensured that Houston is not a “racially charged city like Ferguson or Baltimore.” HPD is striving to make the department more transparent and accountable in ways no other city or police agency is doing. Two and a half years ago, a hundred police officers were outfitted with cameras. The decision was questioned at that time but proved right because of several incidents of police resorting to unnecessary force. Another first is a bus tour to take new cadets to inner city neighborhoods to understand ethnic and culturally diverse neighborhoods. The Chief concluded by observing that there are many things “on our list to make sure we have a strong bond with the community we serve.”
Joanna Nolte from Shell thanked the Chief of Police for all that the Department does to “keep Houston safe.”
Click here to view the event booklet
Photography by : Bijay Dixit, Unique Photo Images