Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner called it a “dark day” at a press conference for the Houston Police Department, announcing that 4,107 adult sexual assault cases were wrongly closed without investigation.

A case management code “suspended for lack of personnel” was used, which led to closing the cases without actually investigating them. 

Finner said he was first made aware the code even existed in 2021 and instructed HPD’s special victims division to stop using the code; however, he found out on February 7, 2024 that it continued. HPD first began using the code in 2016.

He said he immediately ordered a review of all cases suspended using this code dating back to 2016, which will take at least 30 days to complete. While the number of cases they have today is 4,017, he says it is “fluid and subject to change.”

Some, they found, are duplicate reports. An example he gave was that one complainant with a mental health issue filed 91 reports on the same complaint, so ultimately the overall number could be lower or even higher.

Finner said they added 22 individuals to the team to review cases already and will add another 10 investigators by the end of the week.

To date, he says, they have gone through 700 cases and have begun contacting victims to notify them of the mistake and, hopefully, get their cooperation as they reopen the cases. This special team will continue to review cases, contact individuals, properly code reports, and conduct follow up interviews. 

Finner offered an apology to the victims, but he avoided questions about whether or not he followed up after he first found out about the coding issue to see if investigators were following his directive, how he communicated the directive in the first place, and what steps were taken at the time to review cases from 2016 through 2021. He also pushed back against questions about how victims can continue to have faith in the department. 

Reporters also pressed Finner on the extent of internal investigations, whether a federal monitor should or would be appointed to oversee the process, and if he is concerned about his position; he declined to answer.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.