Dear Editor, Michael Olsen was a liability to the community and the Police Department. He was a ticking time bomb that, if taken care of properly under Chief Stan Knee, wouldn’t have fallen to Chief Art Acevedo to deal with, and Kevin Brown would still be alive. Olsen was one of nine involved in the 2000 death of Steven Scott and was suspended for his actions against Jeffrey Thornton (both young black males), when in 2003, Olsen struck Thornton's head against a patrol car for the “crime” of being in the street. Without provocation, Olsen knocked Thornton unconscious but claimed Thornton was "faking" his injuries and ultimately lied to Austin Police Department investigators about what he had done. Luckily, a surveillance video caught the incident, so Thornton’s charges were dropped; most aren’t so "lucky" when cops lie. Acevedo has committed to firing any officer for lying, so if this case had happened under his watch, again, Brown would still be alive. But surely these prior incidents weren't isolated. Olsen even admitted to losing his temper twice that night prior to encountering Brown. We’ll never know how many times this man rampaged at the expense of community members and officers and was not disciplined for it. Under Knee, such behavior was routinely tolerated. The new chief has been consistent in his disciplinary decisions, which is the key to creating an accountable department and a safe community. Olsen put other officers in jeopardy the night he shot Brown, so his termination also helps to ensure officers’ safety, not the other way around, as Olsen weakly maintains. Most officers understand this; it’s those that believe they are above the law that bring harm. Acevedo rightly concluded what Internal Affairs failed to, which is a separate issue to address, as is the failings of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office in the grand jury process. The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas' Central Texas Chapter commends the chief for applying justice in this case. His actions provide great hope for the future, but we remain steadfastly committed to playing our role in furthering a more accountable department and a safer community.
Debbie Russell President ACLU-TX Central Texas Chapter