Following the revelation that the Houston Police Department suspended 4,017 sexual assault incident reports without investigation, Police Chief Troy Finner has now announced that the true number, across all divisions, is 264,000. 

In a recent press conference, Finner said that HPD personnel were using a “lack of personnel” code to close out sexual assault incidents without investigating them, a practice that started in 2016. He was first made aware of the code’s existence in 2021 and said he ordered it to stop being used.

However, on February 7 he found out that it was still used on incident reports since 2021. He ordered a review of all reports suspended using the code, which found that it went beyond just sexual assault reports and included other crimes as well—including 100,000 property crimes. 

HPD has so far added 32 officers to the division to begin reviewing reports dating back to 2016 and reconnecting with victims and witnesses to finally conduct an investigation, if possible. With as much time as has passed, it’s likely many of the victims will not be able to be reached for a variety of reasons including changed phone numbers or addresses or they were transient. 

Finner said that correcting the code classification won’t change the outcome of some of the incidents reported because, instead of “lack of personnel” being the reason for closing the case, some cases should have been coded to indicate there was no lead for them to pursue, which would effectively have the same result. 

Questions remain for the chief as documents have shown that policy manuals for the department approved as recently as December of 2023 permit using the code in some felony and misdemeanor reporting. 

Finner said he is planning a follow-up press conference at the end of the week to provide more information about the internal review process and its findings. 

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.