The Houston police and fire departments were heavily involved in crowd control measures, on-site security personnel, and emergency response for the music event when a surging throng murdered eight people, playing significant roles in crowd management, on-site security, and emergency response. Even before the event, the police chief claims to have met with the main act.
The criminal inquiry into how the tragic turmoil erupted during rapper Travis Scott’s concert on Friday night is now being led by the city’s police department.
While a senior local leader has called for a separate, independent inquiry into the disaster, crowd safety experts think an impartial outside probe might help the city avoid any conflicts of interest and improve openness.
Jodi Silva, a spokeswoman for the Houston Police Department, declined to comment on whether the department’s direct participation in the incident posed a conflict of interest or if it contemplated turning the investigation over to an independent agency. In cases involving police shootings, such choices are frequently made.
“We have put out all of the information we have accessible at this moment on Twitter,” Silva added.
According to Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesperson for the county judge’s office, the police department’s inquiry would be distinct from any independent review ordered by County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Harris County’s highest elected official. Hidalgo hasn’t chosen who would undertake the independent review or how it will be conducted, according to Lemaitre.
“She wants to know if there was any way this could have been avoided,” Lemaitre added. “It’s also possible that it couldn’t have been prevented for whatever reason, and that’s something we’d like to know.”
After the Astroworld extravaganza at Harris County’s NRG Park, many issues remained unanswered. Some of the unanswered concerns are what the Houston police and fire agencies did before, during, and after a crowd rushed toward the stage, killing eight people and wounding many more. Over 300 individuals were treated on the scene, with at least 13 more being hospitalized. Other concerns revolve around the activities of event planners.
Houston police and fire officials have stated that part of their inquiry would focus on whether the concert organizer and others involved in the festival followed the plans that were filed for the event.
In plans submitted with Harris County, Astroworld’s organizers drew out security and emergency medical response measures for the festival. The festival director would make the decision to evacuate the event after consulting with others, including the security director, according to the 56-page operations plan acquired by The Associated Press. Such plans were submitted with Harris County and Houston, and Houston police authorities must examine them.
An independent criminal inquiry of what happened in Houston, according to Christopher Slobogin, head of the criminal justice department at Vanderbilt University, might be advantageous to minimize any potential conflicts of interest. However, he admitted that this instance is not typical of cases in which authorities must decide whether or not to remain involved in a case due to a conflict of interest.
“It’s likely that neither the fire department nor the police department committed the actual crime,” he stated. “However, I believe it would be better practice, at least in terms of appearances, if an independent organization conducted the probe.”
The festival’s security was mostly provided by a private business, according to officials, although Houston police were also deployed to the event. According to the plan, ParaDocs, a private firm located in New York, provided medical treatment during the festival.
During a press conference on Saturday, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pea noted that the injuries and quantity of the crowd “soon overwhelmed” the private security and medical firms. Despite the fact that the medical operations plan did not require the fire department to have units stationed around the event, Pea stated his department opted to do so “in case this situation worsened.”
On Friday, before Scott’s performance, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner met with Scott and the rapper’s head of security for a “short and courteous” conversation, according to a statement released on Monday. The chief stated that he requested that they collaborate with the police department.
“I conveyed my worries about public safety and stated that in my 31 years in law enforcement, I have never witnessed a period when residents of all ages have faced more obstacles, including a worldwide pandemic and social friction across the country,” Finner said.
G. Keith Still, a visiting professor of crowd science at the University of Suffolk in the United Kingdom, said his independent inquiries into comparable disasters always start with a review of the event’s safety permitting procedure. He looks at how a permit was granted and if the event organizer followed the terms of the permission.
“Police might sometimes become overly focused on obtaining eyewitness testimonies,” he added. “With 50,000 possible eyewitnesses, they’re left with a vast, muddled mass by the time they’re done with everything.”
The probe will include evaluating footage obtained by event producer Live Nation as well as dozens of recordings from audience members, according to Houston police and fire authorities. Officials intended to go through the event’s security plan and see if the organizers fulfilled all of the permission criteria.
In an email, Steven Adelman, vice president of the industry group Event Safety Alliance, said he saw no problem with public safety officials approving an independent review into the Houston disaster.
“I would expect and anticipate that the inquiry will be carried out by an independent third party who is not influenced by the agencies associated with Astroworld. “This is not an unusual scenario in complex scenarios like this,” Adelman wrote, whose company was founded after a stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair in 2011 killed seven people.
According to Adelman, private forensic analysis professionals studied the Indiana stage collapse independently, looking at the stage roof engineering and crowd control.
The Houston inquiry is “a terrific illustration of what I hope we see here,” Adelman added.
Finner justified the length of time it took to cancel the event following the first signals of problems. After noting that spectators were “going down,” the police chief claimed his agency promptly alerted the concert organizers. After 40 minutes of conversation with the fire department and NRG Park administrators, the concert was canceled.
“You can’t just shut down when you have 50,000 — over 50,000 — people, OK?” Finner remarked. “When you have a bunch that young, you have to worry about rioting – riots.”
According to Pea, local officials limited the attendance to 50,000 people, despite the fact that the facility could hold 200,000 people due to fire restrictions.
“Both the fans who went and their families may obtain the answers they want and deserve,” Live Nation said in a statement, “and we will address any legal concerns at the proper time.”
“I’m calling for an objective and independent inquiry into what happened,” Hidalgo tweeted on Saturday. She also expressed gratitude to the police and fire agencies for their efforts.
“It’s possible that this catastrophe is the product of unforeseeable occurrences, of situations colliding that couldn’t have been averted,” Hidalgo speculated. “But until we figure that out, I’m going to ask the hard questions.”
Hidalgo’s office is not a law enforcement entity with jurisdiction over criminal investigations.