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Houston Police Chief McClelland introduces robot, updates on recent issues

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Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland press conference in 16th floor conference room of HPD headquarters August 21 2014
Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland press conference in 16th floor conference room of HPD headquarters August 21 2014
Marc Pembroke
"Officer "Defender at press conference wtth HPD Chief McClelland
photo by Marc Pembroke

On Thursday August 21, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland held a press conference in the 16th floor conference room to discuss current issues and review policy matters on a range of topics.

He began by reminding Houston residents that schools are opening soon, and this will mean more traffic, reduced speeds in school zones, and more excited children on the streets who may not be as cautious as they should in commuting to and from school. He then called for the “newest officer” to approach, and a human sized robot, “Officer Defender” rolled up to the podium. Officer Defender, named by local Boys and Girls Clubs, is a gift from State Farm Insurance, The robot “speaks” in a female voice and gives lessons on stranger danger, safety, and other topics in an interactive format.

Turning to more serious matters, Chief McClelland took time to set the record straight about an incident alleged by Mrs. Josephine Garcia in a statement to Houston City Council during the public speaker session on July 29th about the arrest of her husband on a traffic violation a few days earlier. Ms. Garcia alleged that the arresting officer had released the family dog from her husband's truck while arresting him and his passenger on drug charges following a traffic stop. The incident occurred near BARC headquarters, but according to Ms. Garcia, there was no attempt to confide the animal to BARC, but rather abandoned it on the highway. Ms. Garcia's allegations “went viral” as pet lovers who observed her statement on the Internet reacted, and HPD received thousands of calls and hate mail from around the country. Chief McClleland explained that the investigation of the incident showed that the arrest was for drug possesson and not a traffic violation. The dog was released accidently by the operator of the tow truck that was called to remove the vehicle. When the dog escaped, three officers tried to catch it but it ran to a wooded area. BARC was called for assistance, since police officers are not equipped to catch and restrain dogs. As evening fell, and the dog was not found, they had no choice but to abandon the search.

The next matter of urgent interest involved allegations of document falsification by officers using electronic ticket writing devices. Some tickets have been found reporting certain officers on the scene as witnesses whn other data from their GPS showed they were miles away. Four officers are under investigation and one of them committed suicide on Tuesday evening. Reporters asked questions about whether the electronic ticket writers retained data from one incident to the next. If so, a failure to clear the memory could result in false reports. Chief McClelland urged caution since the entire matter is under investigation and he did not have all the facts concerning the machines or misconduct. Reporters asked other quesitons about an HPD officer arrested on drug charges in Montgomery County.The officer was found to be having an affair with a Harris County prosecutor. Again, the chief refused to speculate on whether a special prosecutor should have been called or whether the District Attorney should have shared more information on the officer.