Not So Funny: APD Officers Caught Making Rape Jokes

Last week wasn't so great for APD

Incoming APA President Kenneth Casaday
Incoming APA President Kenneth Casaday

Chalk up last week as one the Austin Police Department would like back for a mulligan. It opened with a high-profile loss in court to Antonio Buehler – acquitted last Wednesday of disobeying a lawful order – and ended Friday afternoon with folks throughout the country learning that one of APD's officers might like to tell rape jokes.

That assessment stems from a video released Thursday evening through local attorney Drew Gibbs. Through an open records request made as part of an investigation for a client's motor vehicle collision, Gibbs came upon a dashboard camera video sequence from May that finds two APD officers, Mark Lytle and Michael Castillo, cracking a joke about police officers' collective inability to "unrape" a woman walking past. (Note to cops: Rape jokes are never funny.) The APD verified the video's authenticity Friday and announced the immediate launch of an internal investigation, set to include "a comprehensive audit of the involved officers' contacts with victims of sexual assault" and, eventually, "appropriate corrective action." (Both officers remain on active duty for now.)

Austin Police Association President Wayne Vincent told outlets Friday that he didn't think the two officers should be fired for the jokes and insisted sensitivity training would be appropriate instead. He admitted that the whole situation is embarrassing, but considered the comment the product of an officer's "unguarded moment." He added that he didn't think the comments reflected either officer's work ethic whatsoever.

The PR nightmare continued when his successor, current APA secretary Kenneth Casa­day, suggested the two officers were just "clowning around" during a "high-pressure job." Such was enough to solicit official responses from City Council Members Chris Riley, Mike Martinez, and Sheryl Cole, all of whom slammed the incoming prez for failing to see the severity of such an off-color remark. "Rape will continue to go underreported if victims of sexual violence do not feel that their cases will be taken seriously by law enforcement," offered Martinez, who called for a public apology from Casaday. Riley followed by urging the APD to conduct sensitivity training akin to past sessions focused on LGBT issues. "Everyone in Austin should be able to feel that the police will take threats to their safety seriously," he said.

Memories quickly returned of Police Chief Art Acevedo rationalizing the somewhat aggressive arrest of a UT-area jaywalker by saying, "In other cities there's cops who are actually committing sexual assaults on duty – I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas." We're sure Acevedo didn't need the reminder.

Worse, perhaps, than the quip made in the squad car is the response from the second officer (it's still unclear who said what) after the rape joke had been made: "You didn't turn your camera off, did you?" a reference to the dashboard camera's recording of their entire conversation. In fact, Gibbs offered in his statement Thursday that the question concerning the dash-cam being on was what forced his hand to release the video altogether. "I would hope that when a police officer observes another police officer acting inappropriately, or worse, illegally, that their initial reaction would be to correct that behavior and prevent its reoccurrence," he noted. "Instead, it seems that all too often the reaction of many otherwise good police officers is to hide any evidence of misconduct."

He also made reference to the details surrounding Buehler's misdemeanor case – the same case that settled on Wednesday in which footage from dashboard cameras eventually helped the cop-watching activist get off scot-free – thus closing the circle on a rough week for APD.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Austin Police Department
Timeline Set for APD Audit
Timeline Set for APD Audit
Review of sex assault cases to kick off this fall

Sarah Marloff, April 5, 2019

Council Calls for Audit of APD Rape Cases
Council Calls for Audit of APD Rape Cases
Start-to-finish review responds to growing concern from advocates, survivors

Sarah Marloff, Feb. 8, 2019

More by Chase Hoffberger
Revisiting the Railroad Killer
Revisiting the Railroad Killer
Local journo Alex Hannaford’s Dead Man Talking podcast investigates the case against a man on death row

Nov. 16, 2018

EMS Union Set for Leadership Contest
EMS Union Set for Leadership Contest
Association to cast ballot between incumbent Tony Marquardt or challenger Selena Xie

Nov. 16, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Police Department, Art Acevedo, Drew Gibbs, Mark Lytle, Michael Castillo, Wayne Vincent, Kenneth Casaday, Chris Riley, Mike Martinez, Sheryl Cole, sexual assault, dashcams

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle