DOJ Won't Review APD Tactics
Feds say Austin has tools to review its own work
By Jordan Smith, 3:56PM, Fri. Sep. 6, 2013
The Department of Justice has declined an August request made by City Manager Marc Ott to review Austin Police "tactics and practices" – a request prompted by several high-profile shootings including the July slaying of Larry Eugene Jackson, Jr.
In a Sept. 3 letter to Ott, Jonathan Smith, chief of the DOJ's special litigation section, wrote that as a result of the feds' previous review of APD the city has "in place independent oversight mechanisms that can provide the perspective and expertise necessary for the City to learn from and credibly respond to incidents like these recent events in Austin," reads the letter. "It may better serve our shared goals of constitutional policing and community confidence for the City and the Police Department to build upon the previous Civil Rights Division investigation and recommendations by working with Austin's existing independent oversights mechanisms," he continued. "Together, the City, the Police Department, and these entities can implement, modify, or enhance current systems to ensure that accountability is robust, and that practice does, in fact, follow policy."
The request for a review came on the heels of the shooting death of Jackson, shot in the back of the neck by Detective Charles Kleinert during an alleged scuffle near Shoal Creek in Central Austin. Kleinert chased Jackson on foot after commandeering a car driven by a civilian to follow Jackson who allegedly failed to properly identify himself when asked to do so by Kleinert outside a nearby bank that had been robbed that morning. Jackson was not suspected in the robbery, but the department has said it has "specific" information that Jackson did go to the bank that afternoon to commit a "fraud" of some sort.
The shooting is still under investigation.
In response to the DOJ's decision not to revisit APD operations, Ott on Friday penned a memo to Council saying that although he had "hoped for active DOJ involvement, I am certainly pleased with the confidence they have indicated in existing APD policies and procedures," reads the memo.
Ott wrote that he has directed APD Chief Art Acevedo to undertake a "special review of APD's tactics to insure they are aligned with the 160 recommendations made by DOJ in its earlier investigation," reads the memo.
In the meantime, Ott wrote that his staff has been working with the DOJ's Community Relations Service, which focuses on "conciliation and mediation of community tensions around race and ethnicity issues," and notes that CRS is planning to hold a community forum in Austin.