The following is a transcript of an interview with Houston Police Chief Troy Finner that aired Sunday, April 25, 2021, on “Face the Nation.
JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We want to continue our conversation on policing in America with Troy Finner, Houston’s chief of police. Good morning.
HOUSTON POLICE CHIEF TROY FINNER: Good morning, JOHN.
JOHN DICKERSON: I want to get your first sense, what was the reaction within the force about the verdict in the Derek Chauvin case?
FINNER: Well, JOHN, let me just say this, it is a message to everyone that no one is above the law. If you raise your hand and you take an oath of office to protect and serve and uphold constitutional rights and you do what he did, it’s a message that no one is above the law. And it’s a message to everybody in our nation, including our citizens, that, you know what, everyone is going to be held accountable. So I- I think that the- the jury spoke. The judge spoke. And we need to move forward, but we also need to have deep, honest communications.
JOHN DICKERSON: Minneapolis- the precinct commander in Minneapolis, Charles Adams, told- said this to The New York Times, he said, “So much is being thrown at us as law enforcement officials. We’re unsure how we’re going to police in the future.” I hear anxiety in that answer. Do you- do you feel or get a sense of anxiety in your force?
FINNER: No, JOHN. I do have concerns with- with our troops on the front line, but you have to remind them, what did they sign up for? They signed up to protect and- and serve. And you also have to remind them that the majority of citizens in Houston and around the nation respect and honor police officers. You have to remind them, look, don’t get caught up in the negative noise. Understand what’s going on. Understand that people of color, communities of color, are hurting. We have to be honest with them. We have to give value to their perceptions, to their life experiences, because their perception is their reality. Our perception is our reality. And it’s not until you slow down and give value to that, start to communicate and talk about those tough things. And when you do that, you- you build bridges. And- and that’s what we need to be doing in our nation. Get away from the negative and understand there is a problem and we have to address it and we’re going to address it together as- as a nation.
JOHN DICKERSON: So what are you doing in your force to try to address those problems, to build those bridges, have those conversations?
FINNER: Well, I’ve- I’ve been in my community for 31 years as a police officer, so I have deep-rooted respected relationships, so reaching out to everybody and non-traditional people. We got to reach out to former gang members. We got to reach out to Hip-Hop. Everybody needs to be in a fight. But what do we- what do we do in- in terms of training and- and making sure that we are deescalating every chance that we can. Make sure that- that the officers are slowing down. A lot of the officer-involved shooting scenes, you find out one thing, sometimes the officers rush in, OK? Slow them down, gain cover when you can. But also take a critical look at everything that led up to the shooting incident. Did we slow down? Did we do everything we could because- and you got to put it into the officer’s heart and in their minds, sanctity of life is the most important thing. And it’s important for everybody to go home, not only our police officers, but our general public. So you- you just got to drill that in every day and- and people ask about training. And training is just not something that you do once a year. Training is every day. It- it has to be psychological. We talk about touching the hearts and minds of citizens every day. What about our police officers? And then you have to reassure them, look, we got 8,000 police officers, 18,000 police agencies in our nation. The majority of them do great work.
JOHN DICKERSON: Do you ever worry, Chief, that- you know, one of the- one of the ways that we get change, one of the ways there is reform is when there is a lot of public talk and a lot of demonstration. That is necessary in the American story. On the other hand, what I wonder from you is if all of this talk about reform and the- and the police officers who’ve done bad things changes the level of trust that is absolutely required for public safety and for what the members of your force have to do.
FINNER: If- if you allow it to. It’s a two-way street in this, you know, and let’s- let’s be honest, I’m a man that speaks the truth. I’m- I’m to the point. There are problems, OK? Too many unarmed African-American or males of color, young males are being shot in our nation. So we have to address that. But at the same time, let’s talk about all the good work. And- and when I go out to the community, because I’m from this community and- and I can only speak in terms of Houston. People ask me, you know what, Chief, why we don’t have more Black or why we don’t have more Latino officers in this area? You know what, but I never want to discount the Caucasian officers who’ve been in our communities, the African-American and Latino communities, for 25, 35 years, you know, and retired, never shot anyone, never had a complaint. So we have to speak the honest truth. But remember what I said, we also have to give value to a group of people when they’re hurting, when they have lost a loved one, you know, in- in a police officer-involved shooting, that probably wasn’t justified. So we have to just come together and really communicate.
JOHN DICKERSON: What do you think, Chief- and- and I know you’ve paid attention to the Ma’Khia Bryant case in- in Columbus in Ohio. They released the footage very quickly. Is that something you think is a good idea?
FINNER: You have to release that footage. Mayor Turner is getting ready to announce some of the reform that’s coming because of the result of his task force on- on policing. We’re going to have a press conference next- next week. And I don’t want to get ahead of him, but you’re going to see departments around the nation- it is a thing of transparency. You can’t just talk transparency and not be transparent. The public needs to know. And the quicker you put those body-worn camera footage out, the better off everybody is going to be.
JOHN DICKERSON: And finally, just 20 seconds, Chief, what would you advise Americans watching this footage? Because we’re going to see more of it, how they should process it? On any- not just in the Ma’Khia Bryant case, but any case.
FINNER: Yeah. Look at every case on its own individual merit. Look at it. Don’t paint a brush or put all police officers in one pot. Just as the same that officers shouldn’t put a particular community in one pot.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right.
FINNER: Because when we do that, guess who wins? The criminals and the bad police officers. We need to have a laser focus on those officers who are violating people rights and also the suspects who are out there that’s doing it wrong.
JOHN DICKERSON: OK.
FINNER: So let’s come together, let’s have those difficult conversations–
JOHN DICKERSON: All right.
FINNER: — and let’s love one another and our nation.
JOHN DICKERSON: Chief, thank you so much for being with us- with us. We appreciate it.
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