APD's Low Profile

APD Officer Tim Enlow's firing goes to arbitration

Former APD police officer Tim Enlow (l) on Wednesday morning re-enacts an arrest he made last year, during testimony in his arbitration hearing. Arbitrator Harold Moore (center), and Assistant City Attorney Mike Cronig watch.
Former APD police officer Tim Enlow (l) on Wednesday morning re-enacts an arrest he made last year, during testimony in his arbitration hearing. Arbitrator Harold Moore (center), and Assistant City Attorney Mike Cronig watch. (Photo By John Anderson)

Not 24 hours before the long-awaited arbitration hearing for former Austin Police Dept. officer Tim Enlow, lawyers with the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas lashed out at APD, alleging the department brass has been harassing and intimidating witnesses scheduled to testify during the proceedings. "The city's taking one more swat at Tim Enlow," said C.L.E.A.T. attorney Mike Rickman, a former Mesquite police officer who is representing Enlow. "The message is, if you help Tim Enlow, you're going to be subjected to being investigated for anything." According to Rickman, one city-subpoenaed police witness was called by the city's attorney late last week and "asked" to change "from testimony that was favorable to Enlow to testimony that does not favor Enlow." Rickman said at least one other officer scheduled to testify for Enlow was called into the APD's Internal Affairs Division and told that, if the officer testified in support of Enlow, the department would come down on the officer as "aiding and abetting" Enlow's alleged activities.

Enlow was fired in August 2001, for what Chief Stan Knee called "racial profiling," reportedly the first officer firing in Texas on that allegation -- and all before the APD had a racial profiling policy on its books.

The department was quick to deny the allegations. "C.L.E.A.T.'s loosely framed accusations are unfounded and without merit," APD spokesman Paul Flaningan read from a prepared statement. The APD prides itself on the professionalism of its officers, he said, and has very high standards that all officers must uphold -- including the requirement to "testify truthfully" in legal proceedings. "That's all I can say at this time," he said, citing the pending arbitration that began Sept. 17. "In other words, we're not going to try this thing in the media."

But Rickman wasn't buying the APD administration's denials. "I do disagree with that, but I wouldn't expect anything else from the city," he said. Charley Wilkison, C.L.E.A.T.'s political and legislative director, wasn't buying it either. "As the cases get further with preparation for trial, both sides get a sense of the other side's evidence and what witnesses may testify to," Wilkison said. "When this evidence begins to mount in favor of the rank-and-file officers, the chief and the fifth floor [APD's administrative offices] begin to get nervous, so they begin to pressure and intimidate witnesses. It's called impending doom." In Wilkison and Rickman's view, the entire process -- from Enlow's firing through the city's recent subpoena of Shelly Wilkison (who writes the Austin Police Association's union newsletter The Police Line, and is Charley's wife), and the recent alleged intimidation and tampering with witnesses -- has clearly illustrated a pattern of abusive behavior by APD brass. "It fits a clear pattern of abuse of power within the police administration," he said. "It's desperate behavior."

Assistant City Attorney Mike Cronig spent most of the hearing's first day attacking details of statements Enlow made to investigators from Internal Affairs regarding two off-duty arrests he made in February 2001. (Wednesday morning the hearing was moved to the site of the arrests for a "reenactment.") The department maintains that these off-duty arrests were against department policy; Rickman argues they were completely in line with standards contained in the department's general orders. Cronig also told arbitrator Harold Moore that the racial profiling charges are just a tiny portion of the case against Enlow -- and that as the "sexiest" of the charges, they have been blown out of proportion by the media. Cronig failed to note that APD Chief Stan Knee told the American-Statesman in August of 2001 that Enlow was being fired for racial profiling, a charge reiterated by Assistant Chief Mike McDonald on Frank Garrett's KAZI radio show. In short, the hearing is off to a tense and contentious start.

The hearing, at the Learning and Research Center at Austin-Bergstrom Airport, is scheduled to run through Sept. 25.

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