Lt. Troy Finner of the Houston Police Department shared his career experiences with SHSU students at a Grassroots presentation.
Troy Finner grew up in the hood in Houston and became the first college graduate in his family. After making it to the top of his class in the College of Criminal Justice, he didn’t pursue a highly coveted federal position, instead returning to his hometown to help the community.
Lt. Finner, the top ranking, classified officer in Houston Police Department Public Affairs, recently returned to Sam Houston State University for “Grassroot: A Series of Conversations on Leadership in a Diverse Community” to encourage a new generation of students in pursuit of careers.
“I come from the hood; I was born in the 5th Ward and grew up in Hiram Clarke in Houston,” said Lt. Finner. “I have worked for the Houston Police Department for 23 years, and I’ve had a wonderful time.”
Lt. Finner began his career in patrol with a Weed and Seed program in Southwest Houston.Lt. Finner began his career in Southwest Houston, where he was part of the Weed and Seed Program, a U.S. Justice Department initiative to “weed” out criminal elements in neighborhoods and then “seed” in positive program to support youth and the community. He also worked in the Police Athletic League as a way help area youth stay out of trouble.
“We used to call the area the United Nations because of the diversity in the community,” said Lt. Finner. “I had to learn a lot of different cultures and to respect their customs.”
After being promoted to Sergeant, Finner was first assigned to the Southwest Division, but eventually moved to Internal Affairs.
“It is one of the most important positions in the department as a Sergeant to be assigned to the Internal Investigations Command, now referred to as Professional Standards Command,” said Finner. “If something is not right, you can send it back. I got to deal with Captains, Assistant Chiefs and the Proactive Division (which investigated serious allegations against police officers.) I worked real hard, and people respected me.”
Lt. Finner is interviewed by SHSU Student Saiquan Hall, at his Grassroots presentation. During his tenure at Internal Affairs, he helped streamline several key processes. To better address major allegations against police officers, minor complaints were relegated to the divisions for investigation and decisions. When police responded to calls of vicious dogs, if the animal charged and had to be shot, it no longer required a full investigation by Internal Affairs.
His passion for fairness on the job grew out of his own brush with racism as a patrolman. Early in his career, when he and fellow black officers were supervised by a white sergeant, during the month of February, the supervisor would put a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his hunting vehicle. Finner told the supervisor it was “wrong and disrespectful.” When the supervisor refused to remove it, Finner filed a complaint with the police department.
“Don’t let things get you down,” said Lt. Finner. “You can motivate people, move up, and then you get to make the decisions.”
Lt. Finner talks about his work with community groups.Finner has climbed the ladder at the Houston Police Department and now serves as the Lieutenant over Public Affairs. His office deals with the media, special interest groups, volunteers, and the Mayor and City Council. He builds bridges between the department and the community.
As an example, he regularly speaks with Quanel X, a controversial activist in the African American community who is often critical of police treatment of minorities.
“He is an activist, and I have lots of respect for him,” said Lt. Finner. “Although we don’t agree on all things, he gives people a voice that don’t have one. We have to work with and understand our differences. Police officers are not always right. We have to accept that.”
Lt. Finner witnessed the distrust of police growing up in his own neighborhood during the height of the crack cocaine era. He urged students to stay clean, emphasizing that even marijuana could ruin their future and keep them out of careers as law enforcement officers, doctors or lawyers.
Lt. Finner offered one-on-one time with SHSU students.Lt. Finner provided students his recipe for success.
“No matter where you come from or what you do, respect your name,” Lt. Finner said. “You have to have a moral fiber about yourself. It’s what you do when nobody’s looking at you. Being young, you should study hard and work hard. If you hold yourself up and want people to respect you, do the right thing…Respect yourself and respect your brand. Give quality services to citizens and anyone else that comes along.”
For those pursing law enforcement careers, Lt. Finner urged students to keep their records and credit clean. If criminal justice students want to get a federal job, they should pursue their Master’s degree and initially work at a local department. Many federal agencies are looking for specialized skills, such as languages.
“Bad credit is the number one reason that candidates don’t get into HPD,” said Lt. Finner. “Keep your record clean and your credit good. When you take the oath and get your badge, you have to do what you got to do. You have to keep people safe and make the city better.”