Austin Police Chief Brian Manley says he will fully cooperate with the investigation of Former Assistant Chief Justin Newsom and work to remedy any issues that may be identified.
In a letter to the department Manley says he’s been working with the Office of Police Oversight since learning about the alleged racist language used by the former officer and will do his part in the investigation. The Greater Austin Crime Commission supports City Manager Spencer Cronk’s decision to bring in outside investigators to look into Newsom and just who knew what, and when. The Commission’s Carry Roberts said, “we support the city manager and the process. And that we certainly, make sure that if true, these sorts of allegations don’t represent the values of either our police department or our community.”
The Austin Police Association also supports the investigation and wants its findings made public.
APD Chief Brian Manley’s statement to the Department:
I want to provide you with information regarding the allegations of offensive racist comments made by AC Newsom…specifically what I knew, when I knew it, and what I was doing about it. I understand there are concerns over my handling of these allegations and I want you each to know the steps I took. Being fully transparent, here is the timeline:
I was first made aware in late September when AC Newsom let me know he was contacted regarding his upcoming testimony in an arbitration hearing. He said he was informed there was a text message the defense team planned to confront him with and he was concerned about it. I directed him to contact city legal to make sure they were aware, and I was not informed on any specifics regarding the content of the text at that time. I was awaiting the outcome of AC Newsom’s testimony to determine the next steps, but the hearing ran longer than expected and his testimony was postponed until the hearing resumed in Mid-October.
Prior to the hearing resuming, I received an email from a gmail account on October 7 alleging AC Newsom had made racist statements, that other department personnel were aware he has made similar statements in the past, and it included a specific derogatory and racist comment he was alleged to have made about fellow APD officers. The email did not reference when this was alleged to have occurred. The email was time stamped at 1:49 pm. I immediately (at 3:25 pm) that same day forwarded the email to the Office of Police Oversight and the City Manager’s office with the following message:
I have removed (name from email account) and Tony from this response and added ACM Arellano. These allegations are obviously very concerning but we really need a lot more information from Mr. (removed name). Can you make contact with him and see if he can provide the texts (if he has them) or at least identify who showed them to him so we know where to start looking?
The complainant had indicated he did not want to be contacted for fear of retaliation so I wanted the police oversight office to attempt to gain additional information. After several weeks, I still had not heard back from the OPO so I reached out to the Monitor, Farah Muscadin, and asked her if they had been able to obtain any additional information. She said she needed to check with her staff and got back with me a day or two later to let me know they were unable to get a response.
This was around the time I was leaving the country for a week, and while I was away the Office of Police Oversight received a letter/email with additional information on several racist and derogatory comments about specific APD officers, a former council member, and our former President. AC Gay called me while I was in Mexico to let me know the OPO received additional information (but he had not yet seen the email and didn’t have the specifics at that time) and he was working with the city manager’s office, the OPO, and city legal. AC Gay advised me he was meeting with OPO and our assistant city manager the next day to discuss the information and how to proceed. He called me a short while later to let me know AC Newsom had called him and told him he was retiring and the paperwork and keys to his car were already on his desk. I instructed him to work with city legal regarding the circumstances of his retirement and what benefits he would be entitled to under the contract provisions.
I returned home Sunday November 3rd and met with my assistant city manager on the 4th. I requested a meeting with him and the city manager to discuss these allegations along with the APA’s request for an independent investigation. That meeting was scheduled for Thursday the 7th. I chose to not say anything to the Department about my handling of this incident until now because I needed direction from the city manager on whether or not he had concerns with me putting this information out given the investigation I expected him to conduct. I met with him yesterday at 5:00 pm and explained that I felt it was important that I be able to put this information out now given the concerns I had been hearing about how it had been handled. He understood the importance and approved me providing information to the Department.
To summarize, I immediately forwarded the email I received to the OPO and city hall noting my concerns and requesting follow up from the OPO. I did not inform AC Newsom of this at any time, nor did I communicate with him about the additional information prior to him choosing to retire.
I hope this information highlights that there was no attempt to hide anything here, but instead it was immediately referred to the OPO.
In closing, I want you each to know that I find the alleged comments extremely offensive, inappropriate, unprofessional, and racist. These comments have never been, are not, and will never be acceptable, tolerated, or ignored. I appreciate everything you each do daily in service to our community. I understand and share the disappointment (and other emotions) many of you have over this issue, and the fact the allegations were against a senior leader in our Department magnifies that.
Please accept my apology for what has happened to this point and know that I was taking steps to address what had been brought forward. As has been widely reported, the city manager has called for an independent investigation into these allegations. I will fully cooperate with this investigation and work to remedy any issues that may be identified.
Statement by APA: