Ryan Holt (copy)

Ryan Holt

As your Chief of Police, I have resisted making a public statement about the tragic death of George Floyd because I want to afford the proper respect by giving time and space to those who rightfully wanted their voices to be heard. I want to be clear that the actions that led to the death of George Floyd are reprehensible and should shock the conscience of every decent human being. This incident should not be allowed in a just society. The actions by the former officers would not be tolerated here.

The men and women of the Waco Police Department stand with every person who speaks out against this situation and peacefully seeks to affect change to prevent it from ever happening again.

The Waco Police Department has a long history, for more than two decades, of providing training on implicit bias, racial awareness, cultural sensitivity and racial equity for our workforce. The department will continue in those endeavors as we see it as our obligation to combat, at every turn, racial insensitivities and inequities in our community and beyond. Our policies also require our officers to protect the health and well-being of any person in their custody. Officers who may witness any potential harm being done to a person have an affirmative requirement to intervene and to report the incident to the department.

The Waco Police Department’s policies have historically relied on best practices as recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Texas Police Chiefs Association. Additionally, the policies governing use of force are reviewed annually to ensure we are keeping up with best practices. We have, for more than two decades, prohibited antiquated tactics such as choke holds, warning shots, shooting at moving vehicles or placing individuals in positions that could lead to positional asphyxia, among others. Deescalation techniques and the use of less lethal technology have been built into training utilized for many years. Each officer participates in scenario-based training where they demonstrate their ability to deploy these techniques safely and effectively.

Care of those in an officer’s custody goes beyond just preventing harm: Officers are required to seek medical attention for those who have been injured in any way or state they have been injured. The Waco Police Department was an early adopter of the use of Narcan as an early intervention for those suffering from opiate overdose. Every officer has been issued Narcan and the proper training to provide it to individuals without having to wait for additional medical personnel.

In-car cameras have been used by the Waco Police Department to capture the interactions of officers with our public since the early 2000s. Body-worn cameras have been issued to every sworn member of the department since 2018 with a policy developed with input from numerous community-based local and national organizations. The policy includes routine review by supervisors of body-worn and in-vehicle camera videos to ensure all policies are being followed. All use-of-force incidents are reviewed by the entire chain of command including the Chief of Police. The Training Unit also reviews these incidents and adjusts training techniques as needed.

Beyond use-of-force policies, the Waco Police Department also prohibits racial profiling, regularly reviews statistics to see that it does not occur and provides a report to the City Council and the State of Texas annually. Our department was an early leader in the proper use of sequential, blind photo arrays for suspect identification to combat false eyewitness identifications. We safeguard the process by having an officer who is not associated with the investigation and does not know the identity of the suspect show the photo array to witnesses.

If a citizen has a complaint about any department personnel, complaint forms in English and in Spanish are available online or at the front desk of the Waco Police Department headquarters. The sergeant over the Professional Standards and Conduct unit which is responsible for receiving, tracking and ensuring proper investigation of complaints reports directly to the Chief of Police so that no chain of command can exert any undue influence on the outcome of any investigation. In the event wrongdoing is found, disciplinary measures as prescribed by Texas statutes are followed and any criminal wrongdoing is immediately reported to the Criminal District Attorney.

Regarding recent and forthcoming demonstrations in Waco, we have been proud of those who have come together to protest in a productive way. The Waco Police Department will work vigorously to protect the rights of all persons to exercise their freedoms safely and legally as guaranteed by the Constitution. As the Chief of Police, and from those who served before me, I consider it a fundamental duty for the Waco Police Department to help protect the right to assemble and protest in a lawful manner. I see this as core to our service to the community. We will continue to work with the organizers of these events to ensure the safety of all who participate. Additionally, we will continue to work with community partners to ensure that life and property are protected, and that peace and order are maintained.

The members of the Waco Police Department, sworn and civilian alike, are good and kind people who have dedicated their adult lives to public service. These public servants work and raise families in this community, and they want it to be the best it can be for all persons, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other status. We will continue to work to ensure that the type of incidents we see in other parts of the world do not occur here.

We recognize many important issues need to be addressed, including many falling outside the role of our department. Ultimately, additional change will come from working together, having hard conversations and tackling difficult issues head on. Members of the Waco Police Department will continue to work hand in hand with the community to ensure we’re serving in a way that protects the rights and dignity of every individual.

Ryan Holt, a 24-year veteran of the Waco Police Department, is chief of police and an assistant city manager. This column was adapted from the chief’s Friday morning Facebook post.

Load comments