City Council is set to start down the path toward structural police reform with passage of the following four resolutions:
Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza's resolution establishes clear goals for the police department to eliminate disparities between racial and ethnic groups in Austin. By 2023, APD should achieve zero disparities in:
• motor vehicle stops;
• citations and arrests resulting from motor vehicle stops;
• use-of-force incidents per year;
• deaths at the hands of APD officers per year.
The resolution also directs APD to work with the Office of Police Oversight to develop strategies toward achieving these goals, as well as provide quarterly updates to Council on progress. By Oct. 31, City Manager Spencer Cronk is to present recommendations to Council on what specific metrics and indicators should be tracked and a plan to make them publicly accessible, in achieving zero disparity goals.
CM Jimmy Flannigan's piece of the reform package simply converts the existing Council Judicial Committee to a Public Safety Committee. The change may be minor, but CMs hope that it will allow them to better hold public safety leaders accountable for implementing reforms approved by Council.
CM Greg Casar's resolution would direct APD leadership to implement a range of policy changes that regulate officer conduct; they are mostly modeled after the "8 Can't Wait" campaign that has gained national attention in the wake of George Floyd's death. If approved, officers would be prohibited from using tear gas and impact munitions on peaceful protestors.
Officers would also not be allowed to use deadly force against people fleeing, and it should only be used after all alternatives are exhausted. Chokeholds and strangleholds would be banned. The department would also be discouraged from using facial recognition, requesting "no-knock warrants," and maintaining "military-grade equipment."
Finally, the resolution directs Cronk to delay APD's July 2020 cadet class until Council approves forthcoming changes to the training materials and curriculum used at the police academy.
CM Natasha Harper-Madison's resolution directs Cronk to begin exploring ways Council can decrease funding for APD. It starts with deleting funding for positions that the department has been unable to fill, but expands to explore how other city departments and outside organizations can take on some of the roles and services APD currently provides.
Broadly, the resolution also asks for city staff to explore alternatives to policing for services such as family violence prevention, mental health counseling, expansion of diversion programs that help keep people out of prison for low-level offenses, and a host of social services. Collectively, those priorities are expected to be funded with money allocated away from the police department, and are intended to address the root problems that can result in emergency calls that officers typically deal with, though they may not be trained for them.
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