DPS to Audit Austin Rape Case Clearance

APD chief asks for review of cases that aren’t really solved

APD Chief Brian Manley at a City Council meeting in 2017
APD Chief Brian Manley at a City Council meeting in 2017 (Photo by John Anderson)

It's audit time again for the Austin Police Department. On Tuesday afternoon, Chief Brian Manley confirmed that the Texas Department of Public Safety is currently reviewing how APD processes and clears sexual assault cases. Run by DPS's Uniform Crime Reporting program, the audit intends to ensure APD is acting in accordance with federal guidelines.

Though Manley said he requested DPS's review as a "furtherance of our efforts to be transparent," the decision follows recent reports by Newsy, Reveal (from the Center for Investigative Reporting), and ProPublica on how cities across the country – including Austin – frequently clear cases of sexual assault without ever making an arrest. The method, known as "exceptional clearance," is used when detectives have probable cause to arrest a suspect but for some legitimate reason cannot.

Manley, who's featured in the aforementioned news reports, continues to insist APD opts for exceptional clearance so frequently – two out of every three sexual assault cases in 2016 – because survivors often don't wish to move forward with assault allegations. Instead of suspending those cases early on, says Manley, APD continues to work them until there's "nothing more we can do without survivor cooperation." (The other factor in case clearances is the Travis County District Attorney's Office's refusal to prosecute; Manley said he expects the two factors to result in a "60/40" balance that "fluctuates" yearly.)

A letter sent from DPS to Lt. Gena Curtis of APD's Sex Crimes and Domestic Violence units says the audit will assist APD in "identifying any areas of non-compliance" with UCR procedure and will consist of three phases: administrative review to ensure APD's data complies with national guidelines; a data quality review to determine if standards and guidelines were appropriately applied; and an exit briefing on findings, to include a discussion of any identified discrepancies. Manley said the exit briefing is expected to come later this week.

Advocates, however, remain unsatisfied. Survivor Justice Project, in a statement, expressed concern that DPS has "neither the credibility or experience on sexual assault cases needed to ensure that this process will be trusted by survivors and the community." SJP also chastised APD for continuing to use "victim-blaming language in relation to their failure to solve cases," and said, "APD should not get to decide who grades them."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 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
Police Proverbs
Police Proverbs
APD’s new community brand, same old contract issues

Nina Hernandez, Oct. 5, 2018

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
APD fires two cops for excessive force and ushers in new de-escalation policy

Nina Hernandez, Jan. 26, 2018

More Sexual assault
Sparks Flying Over Spider House
Sparks Flying Over Spider House
Owner files suit after sexual misconduct scandal

Sarah Marloff, Nov. 30, 2018

Sexual Assault and the City
Sexual Assault and the City
District Judge Lee Yeakel will hear arguments on whether to dismiss the class action suit filed by rape survivors against the city

Sarah Marloff, Nov. 23, 2018

More by Sarah Marloff
Qmmunity
Qmmunity
Be the gift that keeps on giving

Dec. 14, 2018

Winding Up the Election Cycle
Winding Up the Election Cycle
Harper-Madison, Ellis to join Council; Singh, Gharakhanian prevail

Dec. 14, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Department of Public Safety, DPS, Austin Police Department, Austin Police, APD, sexual assault, rape, exceptional clearance, Brian Manley, Uniform Crime Reporting

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