APD Chief Says Farewell
Afghanistan-bound Stan Knee given an Austin send-off
"After interviewing for the job, I met her back at the Omni and told her that it looked like a good fit and they might be offering the job to me," Knee recalled. "And I am forever grateful that she agreed to leave our home, and our friends and family, back in California, to start a new life here."
It was evident from the long, effusive reception line before the speeches that Knee had found a home in Austin and that, as he said, "This place grows on you." Knee, who said when he came to town, "I wasn't a hugger," spent over an hour hugging neighbors, friends, and community leaders who were visibly eager to wish him the best in his new endeavor. Knee said that he had long been interested in international policing, and officials at the U.S. State Department had contacted him about the position (working for DynCorp, a State Department contractor) and indeed wanted him to move quickly should he be interested. "I'll be taking some vacation time immediately to travel to D.C. for briefings," he said, "and then I'll be leaving for a year's tour on June 4."
The formal festivities began with a performance of the department's. Among the many well-wishers were City Manager Toby Futrell, Council Member Betty Dunkerley, former Council Member Daryl Slusher, Asst. CMs Rudy Garza and Laura Huffman, newly appointed Interim Chief Cathy Ellison, a host of neighborhood leaders, former Mayor Roy Butler, and many others. Introduced by Cornerstone pastor Rick Randall, a wide range of speakers praised Knee's professionalism, his genuine interest in reaching out to the community, and more specifically, his success at establishing "community policing" specific neighborhood/police partnerships that led to cleanups of crime and disorder in long-neglected neighborhoods. Representatives of Northeast neighborhood associations praised Knee for reaching out to their communities, listening to their concerns, and taking effective action against persistent crime problems that they said had been ignored prior to his tenure.
Deborah Cooper, of Austin's Blue Santa program, calculated that during his tenure the chief had made sure that 87,000 children, who might otherwise have gone without, received Christmas gifts. Cooper made Knee promise that when he returns from Afghanistan, he would provide "one gig in the Big Blue Santa Suit," and she said she and her husband, who breed Longhorn cattle, would be giving one to the chief as a gift. "I suggest you name him Stanley."
City officials praised Knee's professionalism, his focus on solving problems, his ability to deal with conflict and difficulty "with a voice of reason, and with lightheartedness," as Garza put it. Butler, and several other long-tenured city officials and long-lived Austinites, described Knee flatly as the best police chief in their memories, "with no disrespect meant" to the other occupants of the office. Chief Ellison, focused in particular on what she said Knee has done directly for the department "he made us all feel like a part of his family" and she gave him a special retirement badge (a practice he instituted), so that whenever he looks at it, Knee will know "he's always a part of this family."
Futrell spoke of the difficulty of public service, especially for a police chief, praised Knee's "articulate wry and dangerous sense of humor," and delivered "our community's deepest gratitude, our utmost respect." Futrell concluded, "I couldn't thank someone more." Slusher said that echoed the praises, adding that he has been particulary impressed by Knee's "enormous sense of integrity."
Knee took the podium to thank everyone for coming out, reminiscing about his family and how they have come to call Austin home, and said that while he is "saddened to be leaving," he is not concerned for Austin's future, "because the character of this department marches on." He said the folks at the APD "truly know what policing is about," and that Chief Ellison "will move this department to fulfill the high expectations of this community."