Geoffrey Freeman Reaches Settlement With City
Cop fired for killing David Joseph gets $35,000, "general discharge"
By Chase Hoffberger,
1:58PM, Fri. Dec. 2, 2016
Former Austin Police Officer Geoffrey Freeman won’t go to arbitration on Monday to contest his firing. Earlier today, attorneys for Freeman reached a settlement with the city that will provide him with $35,000 and a separation classification of “general discharge,” leaving him free to find a police job in another town or city.
Freeman, an APD officer since 2004, was fired in March for the fatal Feb. 8 shooting of David Joseph in Northeast Austin – one of the most high-profile officer-involved shootings to take place in Austin in the past decade. The shooting triggered a series of fallouts at the Police Department, and wedged a divide between since-departed Chief Art Acevedo and his union, the Austin Police Association, that never fully dissipated. The union had been furious with Acevedo’s treatment of the critical incident, as well as that of Mayor Steve Adler, who had been subpoenaed for the hearing. Acevedo, in particular, rankled his rank and file immediately after the shooting when he announced that he would determine a discipline for Freeman within 30 days, rather than the 180-day grace period he’s afforded by state law. Union officials expressed vocal opposition to the declaration, saying that Acevedo did not give the incident the proper amount of time to consider whether Freeman violated APD policy. The APA’s beliefs were only reinforced in May when a Travis County grand jury cleared Freeman of any charges.
Union representatives were looking forward to the officer’s arbitration hearings, which were set to begin Monday morning at the city’s Learning and Research Center in Southeast Austin. For months, officers had spoken both publicly and off the record about how Freeman did not violate APD policy, but in fact adhered to it, taking action in a situation in which he was presented to police without any backup. They charged that Joseph’s death was the product of training and organizational failures – in particular, APD staffing issues creating situations in which officers are required to handle mental health cases on their own.
In exchange for the $35,000 package and a separation classification of “general discharge,” Freeman has agreed to waive any legal claims against the city. His attorney, CLEAT staffer Grant Goodwin, did not return calls from the Chronicle requesting comment.
Elaine Hart, Austin’s interim city manager, said in a statement shortly after news of the settlement went public that she believed the city would have prevailed in Freeman’s appeal but takes solace in “this settlement eliminat[ing] any possibility that Mr. Freeman could return to APD. My hope is that we can continue the healing process. I believe this settlement is in the best interests of the community and the city.” Brian Manley, enshrined yesterday as interim chief of police in the wake of Acevedo’s exodus to Houston, said “The department is aware that Geoffrey Freeman and the city of Austin have come to an agreement to settle the arbitration and the Austin Police Department respects this decision. APD continues its commitment to uphold the highest standards for its officers.”