HOUSTON, Texas — Despite the loss or damage of their own homes, the men and women of the Houston Police Department put their duty first and stayed on the job to rescue those in danger, keep the peace, and save lives — even as they lost one of their own.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo came face to face with what may become the worst natural disaster to hit a major city in U.S. history. Despite his only being on the job as police chief for nine months, the men and women who work for him have done an amazing job of serving the community in rapidly changing circumstances, weather conditions, and an overwhelming number of service requests.
“The collective heart of the Houston Police Department (HPD), the Houston Fire Department, all of our municipal co-workers, (and) just the entire first-responder community in this city is second to none, and I am very proud of that,” the chief said. Despite more than 200 officers having their own homes damaged or destroyed “They’re putting their duty first.” The chief praised not only the commissioned officers who wear the dark blue uniform but the entire support staff and dispatchers.
Breitbart Texas spoke with several HPD staff members in the lobby. They expressed they have been living at their posts since the Hurricane began, nearly a week ago now.
“I don’t think anyone could have imagined just how significant a challenge this was going to be,” the chief explained. “It’s historical.”
“The (officers) who came in for 12-on, 12-off (shifts), if they were still here Saturday, they didn’t get to leave,” he expressed. “We made them all stay, it was required. They’ve been very highly motivated. And, as you can imagine, when you have close to 200 of them that their own homes have been damaged or lost, they haven’t abandoned their post.”
Acevedo said he has seen his officers responding to rescues, calls for service, and other emergencies with minimal food and rest, oftentimes wearing the same uniform for days.
The chief discussed the tragic loss of one of his own officers, 34-year-veteran Sergeant Steve Perez, who drowned in his patrol car Monday night.
“I’ll never forget, on Monday night when we were trying to find Sgt. Steve Perez, it was raining hard still, and I called for my dive team,” Acevedo recalled. “They had just finished rescuing a multitude of people at an apartment complex that had flooded.”
“They show up — they’d been on for 37 hours — they had survived on having a couple of power bars,” he stated proudly.
The dive team eventually found Sgt. Perez who had apparently accidentally driven into a flooded passageway while trying to find safe escape routes for evacuees.
Despite stern warnings to looters, HPD officers were forced to take their attention away from rescuing those in distress and pay attention to those who intended to harm others. At one point, officers arrested 14 armed robbers who were stealing from people already victimized by “Harvey.” Early in the week, the chief warned that looting “would not be tolerated.”
“Don’t come to Houston, because you’re going to be caught,” Acevedo told would-be looters. “That’s despicable behavior.”
“We know that when you have a major catastrophe like Hurricane Harvey, Tropical Storm Harvey, the ‘Harvey’ that just would not go away — once it starts clearing up just a little bit, the criminal element comes out and they start taking advantage of people and victimizing people that have already been victimized once,” he explained. “You’ve gotta put people on notice. We actually caught a crew of four gang members running around at gunpoint two nights ago, in the heavy rain, robbing members of our community.”
He said he spoke with Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg about the issue. “We both agree that we need to throw the book at people that would be so purely evil to actually victimize people, rob somebody or steal from somebody when they’re already at the lowest point in their life. Those folks, we need to take them seriously and hold them accountable because there will be another hurricane.”
Acevedo praised all of the first-responders and volunteer rescue workers like the Cajun Navy, a team of boat owners from Louisiana that responded in force to help rescue flood victims — even as “Harvey” prepared to move to their home communities.
“We should all take a moment and pause — take a day to just thank all of our first-responders and everybody that came here to help,” Acevedo expressed.
While the rains have stopped in Houston, the flooding continues and people are struggling to survive or return to their flooded homes. Houston police officers remain on the streets, “putting their duty first.”