A shocking video released last week shows four Houston police officers mercilessly beating a 15-year old burglary suspect while at least eight other officers looked on. Some kicked him repeatedly in the head and legs, others punched his torso — all while young Chad Holley was lying face down with his hands behind his head in surrender.
The officers who beat Holley have only been charged with misdemeanors, and many of the officers on the scene that day are still working as police officers in Houston.
It’s time to demand real accountability for the Houston Police Department — and when we do, it’ll send a clear message to other departments with a similar problem. It starts with the four officers who brutalized Holley, but it can’t stop there. What happened to Chad Holley isn’t merely an isolated incident — it’s the result of a police culture in Houston (and in police departments across the nation) that places little value on Black lives.
Your voice can help change that. Please join us in calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate Chad Holley’s brutal beating, and the culture that led to it. And please ask your friends and family to do the same — it’s the first step for reform in Houston and can help shine a light on police brutality in other parts of the country:
Chad Holley ran from Houston police following a burglary — but as soon as he was captured, he immediately stretched out on the ground and put his hands behind his head. But before arresting him, a pack of officers descended on him, stomping, kicking and punching the young man until he blacked out, and leaving him with a broken nose.1,2
Despite this, the officers who beat Holley have only been charged with misdemeanors. All four were charged with “official oppression,” while two of them face an additional misdemeanor charge of violating Holley’s civil rights.3 Each charge carries a maximum of a year in prison — a light penalty for such a clear abuse of power and violation of the public’s trust.
But this is bigger than just the actions of these four officers — Houston Police Department (HPD) has a problem. Misbehavior is rampant among Houston police, with more than 14,000 complaints against HPD officers over the last six years — half of which were upheld. But the real amount of misconduct is likely to be much greater, with much of it not being investigated. Because Black residents distrust the process — and even fear retaliation due to holes in the process — many don’t ever file complaints against police officers.4,5
HPD has painted Holley’s beating as an isolated incident of misconduct, but that’s hard to believe if you watch the video of the incident. Officers attacked Holley simultaneously and without hesitation, as if this kind of violence is routine. There were no fewer than a dozen officers on the scene during the beating, yet HPD leaders didn’t learn of the assault until the security video was mailed to the chief of police and District Attorney — all the officers on the scene were silent until then, willing participants in a cover-up.
This speaks to an important reality: Chad Holley’s beating appears to be the product of a problematic culture within the Houston Police Department — one where officers don’t fear punishment, and where they stick together to hide serious incidents of misconduct. Most recently, this led Houston activist Quanell X, who released the Chad Holley tapes to the public, to announce the release of several more videos of unwarranted police violence.6
The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division can help. They have the power to bring charges with penalties that accurately reflect the heinousness of the Holley incident. This is not just important for justice in Holley’s case or for reform in Houston — but for helping to send a signal to other departments across the country. The Department of Justice can also investigate the entire police force, and force changes to the culture that allowed this happen.
If there’s enough public outcry, we can push the DOJ to take a hard look at Chad Holley’s case. That’s why it’s important that as many of us speak up as possible. And after you do, please, urge your friends and family to do the same. It takes just a moment:
Thanks and Peace,
— James, Gabriel, William, Dani, Natasha, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
1. “Uproar in Houston after video shows police beating 15-year-old suspect,” CNN, 2-5-2011
2. “Exclusive video of HPD beating of teen burglar,” KTRK-TV, 2-3-2011
3. “4 charged, 7 fired, 12 disciplined in HPD,” Houston Chronicle, 6-23-2010
4. “Examining HPD’s discipline policy,” KTRK-TV, 2-3-2011
5. “Complaints against HPD often stick,” Houston Chronicle, 2-7-2011
6. “2008 video draws more claims against HPD,” Houston Chronicle, 2-11-2011