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Good cops, bad cops, in the booming city.

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The cover story this issue was brought to Jordan Smith of the Chronicle staff by cops. The reason I make this note immediately is that I think weeklies such as the Chronicle are viewed as being inherently anti-cop. There is some truth to that, in the scope of the coverage. Good, decent cops going around doing their jobs is rarely a news story. Bad cops are not only a good story, but there is a responsibility to the community to expose them. Recently, the Austin Police Department has been taking it on the chin: the Yogurt Shop Murders turned 10 years old, still unsolved; the Chris Ochoa scandal; and now the under-investigated allegations, made in this story, resurfacing. We should keep in mind that one of the reasons these cases are so devastating is because the Austin Police Department usually does an excellent job against overwhelming circumstances.

The reality of the last half-decade is that Austin has gone from a big town to a medium-sized city, with all the incumbent changes. This has caused an enormous strain on city services. It's easy to blame politicians for this one, but the reality is that the city changing so dramatically and so quickly has created a slew of literally physical problems. The city outgrew itself. In a way, city and staff have been overwhelmed trying to deal with them. Which is small relief to the frontline troops -- the cops, the firefighters, emergency services, and general city staff. Leadership is an issue, but the greater issue is imagination: What is the vision of the city, not just for the future, but for the next week, and how do they tie together?

This piece came about because police officers came forward, raising serious issues not just about the department's leadership but the regular cops' regard of that leadership. As Austin continues to endure growing pains, it is crucial that we keep a vigilant eye on the city's very mechanisms and the people who operate them. What is fashionable or easy here is to find villains. Look out the window, watch the traffic, go to the store. The city has exploded like a kid bursting through clothing. What used to offer sufficient coverage and protection is now ripped and shredded.

The Police Department has a serious responsibility to investigate charges against police officers. They have to do this not just for the community but for the integrity and professionalism of the rest of police force. Jordan Smith did a terrific job reporting this story, but Austin would have been stuck with the lame Statesman coverage if cops hadn't alerted her. Most of the force is trying their damndest to protect this city. If only the bureaucrats could figure out how to facilitate rather than impede them.

Five weeks ago, Gerald McLeod's column "Road Trips" hit its 500th appearance in the Chronicle. I've been meaning to mention it ever since. One of the most-read and best-loved Chronicle columns this week is number 506 in the series (collect them all!).

SXSW and The Austin Chronicle Readers Poll Austin Music Awards are just a few weeks away. We're already lashing ourselves to the masts as we brace for the storm. This year we will publish our regular weekly issue (the annual SXSW Music/Austin Music Poll Results issue) as well as four dailies (Thursday-Sunday) during SXSW Week. More Chronicle in a week than any one human being should have to stand. The whole thing kicks off March 9. We'll be more in touch before then. end story

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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