In spring 2021, Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner promoted Commander Yasar Bashir to be one of his eight assistant chiefs.
Bashir oversees patrol operations in southwest and northwest Houston, including the International District, and the department’s citywide mental health unit.
He is the first Muslim to ascend to the rank of HPD assistant chief.
We spoke with him about his position as a role model, his views on some of the challenges the department is facing and his goals as in the leadership position.
“This is very interesting. Yes, people may see me as the first, but I don’t see myself as that,” he said. “To me, just being a professional in my profession, I see it as this is where our chief believes he wants me to be on his team. And I am honored to be on his team.”
Bashir, who was born in Pakistan, is proud of his heritage. It complicates his role, too, he said, but in a positive way.
“As a human being, sometimes we don’t meet those expectations set by others and ourselves, we fail. When I make mistakes, and I do, it is just me. I don’t want it to reflect a certain group. So, there is that added pressure. It is a good thing, too, because it keeps you in check. It is a very humbling feeling.”
Bashir moved to Houston in 1985, with his family, at age 8. The family would move out of state and return to Houston in 1998.
He initially studied business and finance in college, but in 2001 he joined the Houston Police Academy.
“After that first day I knew this was for me,” he said. “I then studied criminal justice and also received my master’s in criminology.”
After graduating from the academy, Bashir trained as an officer in the department’s Central Command before moving to his first assignment at the old Fondren Station on the southwest side, patrolling the area around his childhood school, Braeburn Elementary.
After working his way upward in the department, he describes his new position as “leadership in action.” Beyond handling day-to-day operations, he is dedicated to keeping officer morale high, connecting with the community and providing feedback and guidance to his commanders to help them develop.
Bashir continues to spend time with patrol officers, adding that he continues to learn as a policeman.
“What has led me is I have always had this learning mindset. My curiosity is what has led me.”
He said one of the biggest parts of his job is continuing to understand different cultures in the communities and how they interact with officers and other community members.
Bashir is a firm believer in what he describes as a four item “Key to Success.”
- First and foremost, reduce crime.
- Build trust and legitimacy with the communities and find out what motivates them.
- Help HPD move forward in every aspect.
- Investing and developing the organization.
HPD’s shortfalls in recruiting cadets and new officers, while many veteran officers retire, weighs heavy on Bashir. The issue was addressed at a recent national conference he attended.
HPD has a recruitment division that enlists hires through many channels. But Bashir sees it as the responsibility of every officer to reflect their “truly honorable profession.”
“It is imperative for officers to act as individual recruiters to attract more people into the law enforcement profession,” he explained.
“We are a professional organization, and we are moving forward, and good policing is highly needed,” he continued. “Right now, we at HPD are going through a culture change. We are developing and motivating our future generation officers. They are not the same type of officers from 30 or 50 years ago. Because they grew up in a different culture and that is impacting our profession as well. So, this is where we are growing, we are changing, we are adapting.”
— By Jessika Leal