A Solitary Manley

On the vetting process for Austin’s chief of police

Brian Manley at the first community forum, held at the Turner-Roberts Recreation Center in East Austin on May 7
Brian Manley at the first community forum, held at the Turner-Roberts Recreation Center in East Austin on May 7 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

When City Manager Spencer Cronk announced in April that Interim Chief of Police Brian Manley was the sole finalist in the search for a permanent chief, I wondered how that would affect the forthcoming public engagement process. Presumably, Manley had the job barring any major revelations about past conduct, and it didn't seem realistic to think that Austinites would be falling all over themselves to weigh in on a one-horse race.

After two May forums, it turns out there was something to that line of thought. Last Thursday, at the second and final forum, the city couldn't pack even the cozy confines of KLRU Studio 6A. That shouldn't surprise anyone who knows where this blackbox is: tucked into the very back of UT's Jesse H. Jones Communications Center, at 25th & Guadalupe.

If you didn't know that, you're forgiven; the station is barred from advertising itself with external signage per university rule. Yet there was no one stationed in the Cronkite Plaza to direct visitors to the right place, and even those who knew could have been steered away by the lack of free parking around campus.

A public information officer said the city partnered with KLRU to engage with more of the community. The forum was broadcast on KLRU-TV, Decibel (KLRU's Facebook channel), and the city's closed circuit network, ATXN, but the events didn't draw the crowds (or gather the feedback) organizers may have expected; 110 attended the first forum, and only 65 went to the second. On Monday, Cronk announced that public engagement would continue through Thursday, May 31, "to ensure that the community has had an opportunity to hear Manley's answers to questions posed" at the two forums.

Cronk explained that community input is a "vital" component of his decision. "Public safety is a fundamental responsibility, and I don't take this lightly," he said. But when the competition's between one man who's already doing the job, the public might do just that.

Provide feedback at www.speakupaustin.org/ournextchief, or in Spanish at www.speakupaustin.org/proximojefe; by texting “Chief” or “Jefe” to 512/580-8850; emailing ournextchief@austintexas.gov; or calling 311.

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Brian Manley, Spencer Cronk

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