Acevedo Fires Officer in Connection With Off-Duty Employment Incident

Second APD officer fired this week

Acevedo Fires Officer in Connection With Off-Duty Employment Incident

For the second time in a week, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo has fired one of his officers, this time for a failure to report and collect as evidence a cell phone found hidden behind a hotel room ceiling tile.

According to a disciplinary memo, 6-year veteran Officer Blayne Williams was working an off-duty security job at the Hyatt Hotel on Barton Springs Road when he was sent to Room 929 by a desk manager "in reference to an alarm going off in the ceiling above a guestroom shower earlier that morning." While checking things out, Williams discovered a shower ceiling tile out of place. Williams took a photo and recorded video of the tile, which "had a noticeable hole in it," according to the memo. Williams moved the tile aside and found in the ceiling a "dark cellular telephone sitting on the back right corner of the tile," reads the memo. Williams pulled the phone out and was able to power it up long enough to see the "face of a small Asian child" on the screen before the phone powered off. Williams wrote a Hyatt Regency Hotel Internal Report about the incident and left the phone with the hotel's security director. Notably, he did not call APD to respond, write an APD report, or seize the phone as evidence of a possible crime.

In interviews with Internal Affairs, Williams said he did not suspect any crime had taken place, yet told hotel security that if "after charging the cellphone, there was anything on it, it could be improper photography or improper video, which is a crime," reads the memo, and reportedly said that if he had been working regular duty he would have logged the phone as evidence. During a disciplinary hearing, Williams then said that there was something "suspicious" about the situation.

According to the memo, Williams' actions violated the APD policy on honesty by his failure to "tell the truth in order to mitigate his culpability." Acevedo also concluded that Williams violated report-writing, evidence collection, and neglect of duty policies in concluding that Williams should be fired, according to the memo. "Officer Williams admitted that APD policy required him to 'treat all off duty situations as if you're on duty' and 'to write a report' and 'document' the incident," reads the memo. "Yet, Officer Williams stated that if he encountered the same type of situation again, he would handle it the same way."

Moreover, Acevedo noted that in 2011 Williams was involved in another off-duty incident, outside an H-E-B grocery store on Burnet Rd., wherein he pushed an elderly store employee who used an ATM machine that Williams had been standing in front of, outside the store. That incident netted Williams an indictment for an assault on an elderly person, a Class A misdemeanor, charges that were ultimately dismissed pursuant to a deferred prosecution agreement. For that infraction, Williams was given an agreed suspension of 90 days and was put on probation until December 2013.

Under civil service law, Williams has 10 days to appeal the termination for hearing before the Civil Service Commission or before an independent arbitrator.

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Criminal Justice, Courts, Art Acevedo, Austin Police Department, APD, Blayne Williams, neglect of duty, discipline, cops, evidence

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