Brian Manley: “Austin’s Next Police Chief”

APD vet expects appointment Thursday at Council

Brian Manley
Brian Manley (Photo by Jana Birchum)

By the time you read this, City Council will in all likelihood have voted to approve City Manager Spencer Cronk's appointment of Brian Manley to chief of the Austin Police Department, an inevitability since Cronk named the 28-year APD veteran the lone finalist for the job in April, and frankly well before that if you read the clues that emanated from both City Hall and APD HQ. Manley has admirably handled interim responsibilities, navigating the department through the latter stages of the crime lab collapse, the breakdown in contract negotiations last December, and then the two-week terror brought on by the local bombings. It was after the latter that public sentiment for perma-Chief Manley reached a fever pitch ("Brian Manley's the Man?" March 23), capped off by a plead from Council Member Delia Garza (echoed publicly by Leslie Pool) for her colleagues to "put our full support" behind him.

That occurred last Friday: Cronk, via an 11-page memo (augmented by a seven-page executive summary report of the monthlong community vetting process performed by GovHR USA), identified Manley as "an honest and trustworthy leader" with a "knowledge of Austin and policing" who could progress departmental efforts concerning safety, community policing and transparency, staffing, training, equity, and inclusion. Cronk noted that the vetting process did yield areas of concern, mostly by residents who questioned "whether or not [Manley] is able to bring about a cultural change in the department around areas of community policing, oversight and accountability," but the city manager chalked those concerns up to "the uncertainty of whether or not an internal candidate can be an effective change agent." (Oversight and accountability are in part matters to be addressed in the ongoing contract negotiations between the city and Austin Police Association. In May, Cronk said interim Police Mon­itor Farah Muscadin was "in the process of researching best practices regarding oversight across the country," and that he didn't anticipate concluding negotiations with the APA until they hash out citizen oversight.)

Thursday's vote is a consent Item, meaning there won't be public comment – only a vote – and it's not clear how much opposition the topic would yield if there were discussions. The police union is in support of their longtime colleague; APA President Ken Casaday said the body is "proud" of Man­ley for the work he's done since taking over. And it's unlikely there'd be much opposition from the more prominent activist groups. Austin Justice Coali­tion co-founder Chas Moore stood behind Cronk and Manley at the press conference, and afterwards, offered tepid support. "I can live with it," he confided to Chronicle reporter Nina Hernandez.

Which brings the focus back to Council, a body that on decisions like this doesn't like to stir the pot. Garza and Pool have already shown their hand, and no colleague has yet indicated that they plan to hold things up. Which means APD should have some stability moving forward and Cronk can cross another "interim" position off his list.

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Brian Manley, Spencer Cronk, Austin Police Department

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