City of Houston Mayor's Office of Communications 

Mayor's Press Release

Mayor Whitmire Announces Members of Independent Review Committee

March 13, 2024 -- Mayor John Whitmire announced today the members of the newly created Independent Review Committee he has appointed to assess the Houston Police Department’s handling and resolution of suspended incident reports dating back to 2016.

Mayor Whitmire has created the Committee to ensure transparency, maintain public trust, and prioritize the victims who reported crimes and seek justice.

“The Independent Review Committee members represent a cross-section of the experience, credibility, and representation of individuals across the City of Houston,” said Mayor Whitmire. “I have asked them to go to work immediately to analyze the collected data to identify trends, patterns, and discrepancies in the handling and closing incident reports. The Committee will verify the accuracy and completeness of the information obtained from HPD by comparing it to independent sources where available and appropriate.“

The committee members include:

Ellen Cohen (Chair)

Ellen Cohen

Ellen Cohen, a former member of the Texas House of Representatives (2007-2011) and former Houston City Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem (2012-2020), is a now retired and well-respected public servant. During her tenure in Council, she championed eliminating the over 6,000 sexual assault kit backlog, the historic Pension Reform Package agreement, and many other initiatives to improve the quality of life of her constituents. Before being an elected official, she served for 18 years as the President and CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center (HAWC), focusing on eliminating domestic violence and sexual assault against women in the Houston area.

Captain Jeff Owles

Jeff Owles

Captain Jeff Owles has a long history of public service as a law enforcement officer. He is currently with the Texas Rangers, a Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety. He has over 21 years of law enforcement experience with the Department and over 12 years of service in the Texas Rangers . Captain Owles holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master peace officer proficiency certificate from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. He has been previously recognized for his dedication and service to maintaining law and order in Texas.

Christina Nowak

Christina Nowak

Christina Nowak was appointed Deputy Inspector General of the Office of Policing Reform and Accountability for the City of Houston in September 2023. Nowak started her career as an Assistant District Attorney in Bronx County in New York City, prosecuting narcotics cases and specializing in the prosecution of gangs and homicides. After her decade-long career as a prosecutor, she joined the New York City Department of Education's Office of Special Investigations as Deputy Director. From there, Nowak joined the New York City Fire Department as Deputy Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Office.

Rev. Leon Preston 

Leon Preston

The Reverend T. Leon Preston II answered the call to ministry and was licensed in January 1978 at the Greater Christian Hope Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. Serving as Pastor of Yale Street Baptist Church since 2009, he has been recognized as a humble servant. He led the congregation to significant growth, boasting a current attendance of 500 members at Sunday Morning Worship services. Rev. Preston's journey includes service in the Churches of God in Christ, where he was ordained as an Elder in 1989, and his years of experience in divinity aided him in his current role as a Law Enforcement Chaplain for the Harris County Constables Office.

Arturo Michel

Arturo Michel

Arturo G. Michel was appointed City Attorney for the City of Houston in December 2020, previously in that role from 2004 to 2010. Michel was a partner at Husch Blackwell LLP before becoming the head of the City’s Legal Department. In addition to his public service, Michel enjoyed a long and distinguished career in private practice, focusing on public governance, litigation, labor, elections, K-12 and higher education, contracts, and procurement. 

"The Committee will be accountable to me, and ultimately to all Houstonians who deserve a police department they can trust and to be assured that when they report an incident, HPD will investigate it and not toss it aside because someone wrongly determined there was insufficient personnel to examine the details of an alleged crime," said Mayor Whitmire. "This should never have happened. Under my watch, with the help of the Committee, we are putting a stop to it."