Austin at Large: Reform Follows Dysfunction
José Garza and Delia Garza didn’t get elected by accident. The cops’ own lies show us why.
Boy, I sure would rather be writing about Austin's future, and how we can commit to housing our 1 million (and counting) neighbors, but the news breaks, as it does. Those darn cops! What scamps! What mischief have they gotten into this time, Lassie? Did they fall in a well?
I regret to inform you that yes, the militant police lobby in Austin has fallen into a deep well of bullshit, banging its head all the way down, churning up the powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity. We can smell it. As we report here, Travis County's top prosecutors – District Attorney José Garza and County Attorney Delia Garza – want City Hall and the Austin Police Department to explain why cops are lying to citizens and, according to those citizens, not doing their jobs and investigating potential crimes, and pinning the blame on the two Garzas for making Austin less safe.
You may remember that I predicted this would happen, back when the police lobby's political front group Save Austin Now announced its latest petition drive, which we also learned Tuesday had succeeded in getting on the ballot. (Sorry that we stepped all over your news cycle, SAN co-founder and Travis County GOP Chair Matt Mackowiak!) My column in our May 27 issue ended thus: By election time, "crimes might actually be worse because dumbly entitled wannabe warriors on our police force aren't going to work very hard to prevent or solve them! Let's not be naive about that fact." Now, we have the receipts.
Suddenly, They're Oppressed
I need to pause here to give props to Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday. "Box," as he is known, has already said the quiet part loud – telling reporters a year ago he was counseling officers to slow-walk their law enforcement duties, because the Garzas' landslide victories in the July 2020 primary run-offs showed that Austin didn't really want cops to be cops, or words to that effect. But in response to our story this week, he acknowledges that if the stories told by citizens (that is, witnesses) to the D.A. and C.A. are true, that such behavior by officers is wrong and must change. And while he thinks the prosecutors are flouting state law by letting arrestees go free before they see a judge, he agrees that we could work out an approach that would respect the community's desire to not send people to jail if we know they won't face trial. (Like Houston has done for almost 50 years!) So, good on Box! No beef here.
But other cop lobbyists, like his former APA vice president and failed GOP Lege candidate Justin Berry, and try-hard personal-injury attorney and future failed politician Adam Loewy (who's done a one-eighty from his work a decade ago to secure settlements for the victims of APD officer shootings), responded to our news break Tuesday with a curiously coordinated push to smear José Garza as corrupt, for alleged actions that have nothing to do with this arrest review business. It seems the cop lobby has adopted Daniel Perry, the U.S. Army sergeant who shot Garrett Foster dead in the middle of Congress Avenue last year, as one of their own.
One of the old heads at APD, a 20-plus-year veteran detective, swears (literally) that Garza prevented him from presenting what he thinks is exculpatory evidence to the grand jury that indicted Perry for murder. The motion to dismiss the case based on this affidavit was filed not by Perry's lawyer, but by the APA's go-to counsel Doug O'Connell, who with his partner is also defending the officers indicted in the deaths of Mike Ramos and Javier Ambler. Remember that APD originally let Perry go after the shooting, claiming there was no probable cause for his arrest. The irony that the same cop lobby that's mad at the Garzas for not letting them keep people in jail without evidence is suddenly horrified that Perry – a criminal defendant – can't throw down a Get Out of Jail Free card ... bears the odor of mendacity. It smells like death.
Disgusted with Lies, Liars
Meanwhile, back at the City Clerk's Office, we will have another special election ginned up by another inorganic political wrecking crew who's mastered the process, which in GOP circles apparently means raising and spending a lot more money than necessary so all the hogs can get fed. We know – again, we have the receipts – that Save Austin Now's canvassers lied repeatedly and flagrantly about their proposed initiative as they gathered signatures. In a place with more rational election law than Texas, they could be disqualified from the ballot without much ado. But here we are.
As a reminder, the only thing that really matters in the latest SAN plan is the staffing mandate of at least 2.0 officers per 1,000 Austinites, and probably more to guarantee that those officers have one-third of their days free for donut time ... excuse me, "uncommitted time," when they can go be Officer Friendly and walk their beats and help old ladies cross the street and engage in community policing. That was a completely uncontroversial city policy goal back before people realized that APD is a money pit that's hobbled by cop-lobby racketeering, and that the best community policing is de-policing that allows qualified and trusted Austinites to take Officer Friendly's place. Then people took to the streets, and APD reacted with disturbing violence, and that's why its budget got cut for a brief shining moment. And those people went out and elected the Garzas, who are now doing exactly what they've said they would do for two years. None of this happened by accident.