Austin Council in Lockstep Over Police Reform

The Austin City Council met Tuesday for its work session in which several police reform items on this week’s agenda were discussed.  After lengthy talks and minor debates over amendments, all ten city council members and the mayor voiced their unanimous support for the items, which will severely cut into the Austin Police Department’s tactics, staffing, and finances.

“It kind of feels like we took a vote today, but, of course, we did not because we’re not allowed to take votes in work session,” said a very pleased Mayor Steve Adler.

Adler’s excitement over the unanimous support from the dais was echoed by other council members who said they, too, are chomping at the bit to cast their votes on Thursday.

Five items directly related to police reform will got up for a vote.  They include:

-Overhauling use-of-force tactics and riot-control devices, such as bean bag rounds;
-An end to the “militarization” of the Austin Police Department;
-Absorbing the Judicial Committee into the Public Safety Commission;
-A mandated goal of zero police-caused deaths by 2023;
-Zero funding in the next budget for any new police officer positions.

The council will also vote on a similar item that would eliminate a landlord’s ability to turn down an applicant based on criminal history.

As rank-and-file police officers continue to be thrust under the microscope at City Hall, Chief of Police Brian Manley also remains under fire.  Mayor pro tem Delia Garza said this week the support she gave Manley after former chief Art Acevedo left for Houston is one of her big regrets.  Manley had served as assistant chief under Acevedo, and assumed the role of interim chief following Acevedo’s departure.  Shortly thereafter, Austin was rocked by a series of bombings, and it was Manley’s response to those attacks that elevated him to the top of the list of potential candidates to permanently fill the role of Austin’s top cop.

“I think it’s important we all admit that there were things that we did not do right in the past,” Garza said.  “One of those: I was a supporter of our chief, and I encouraged others, too.”

Manley has vowed to do all he can to address the calls for police reform, and has made himself available to both the council and the public as he has faced continued condemnation for his time at the helm of APD.

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