Dear UH Faculty, Students and Staff,
Police departments are under great scrutiny right now, and for good reason. I’ve been in law enforcement for nearly four decades and some of the events we have seen leave even the most experienced officers in disbelief.
The most recent deaths, of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, have drawn public outrage over the use of lethal force. They should compel every department in this country to take a critical look at their procedures and culture, just as they have prompted our elected leaders locally and in Washington to call for changes.
It is important that the University of Houston policing experience is built on trust. It is important that I share with you our mission, the policies we implement and what drives our actions.
UHPD is starkly different than municipal law enforcement. It’s so different that training is beneficial before going from one to the other. You might be surprised to know that our mission, like that of the university, is student success. That means we focus on making our campus a safe environment for all of you – our students, faculty, staff and visitors – to learn, work and live.
On average, each year we escort more than 11,000 people between buildings or to and from their cars or residence halls, especially late at night. We make sure you and your friends and families are safe at special events like UH football and basketball games. Last year we staffed approximately 400 such events.
While we aggressively prosecute all serious crimes and work closely with our state and federal partners across jurisdictions, we also make unique decisions in the best interest of our community. For example, rather than take an intoxicated UH community member to jail, we might choose to transport them to a sobriety center where treatment is available. They can get the help they need and learn from their mistake without criminal sanction or associated fees, and get back into the classroom sooner.
Of the 4,000 police departments nationally that serve universities, UHPD is one of only 63 that are accredited by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA). We subscribe and adhere to 190 law enforcement best practices and rigorous standards that must be maintained and reviewed annually.
Among them, we don’t utilize “no knock” warrants, the type of tactic that led to an innocent woman’s death in Louisville, KY in March. Nor do we permit chokeholds, the tactic that killed Floyd, unless in the rare event, an officer reasonably believes it is the only means of protecting him or herself or another person from imminent serious injury or death.
Our department has also adopted a trauma-based sexual assault investigative paradigm through IACLEA, recognizing the psychological toll of such crimes. Many of our investigators have also received training through the Harris County District Attorney’s Office Sex Crimes Division and we proactively send every sexual assault investigation conducted by our department to the District Attorney’s office for review.
I am proud of the hard work and culture we have created in our department. Thanks to my team’s commitment, this year the National Campus Safety Summit ranked UHPD 13th in the country for increasing safety and security on campus. No other public university in Texas was in the top 25.
But I will always acknowledge UHPD, like any organization, has room to improve. Recently I met with a group of UH student leaders, who have voiced concerns and filed petitions to improve campus climate, opportunities and inclusion for all. We receive 5-6 external complaints a year against our officers. We thoroughly investigate each one and those found to have violated the law are appropriately held accountable.
I appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in recent weeks to offer support, as well as those who have shared concerns. I take each one seriously. No department is perfect and I welcome any dialogue and opportunity for improvement.
It is only by listening and learning from each other that we can build and maintain the trust we all desire for our University of Houston community.
Ceaser Moore, Jr.
Chief, University of Houston Police Department