Confusion Continues in Police Academy Reboot

Efforts to revise the curriculum taught at the Austin police academy proceed in turmoil

Photo by John Anderson

Volunteer-led efforts to revise the video materials and curriculum taught at the Austin police academy continue to proceed in turmoil, as the Austin Police Depart­ment fired Sherwynn Patton with nonprofit Life Anew, who had been serving as a facilitator for the video review process that's been ongoing since last year and who was expected to begin facilitating curriculum review meetings as well. Patton helped write the final report from the Community Video Review Panel in January 2021, which found that more than half of the videos used for cadet training were inappropriate (including instances of overt racial and gender bias, and of questionable uses of force). It was this review, and several internal audits that preceded it, that led to calls from justice advocates and some City Council members to pause academy training until the whole curriculum could be revised. Instead, citing APD's personnel ­shortages, Council agreed to move forward with the current cadet class as a pilot of the "reimagined" academy, which is still a work in progress.

After completing that report, Patton began working in June with the curriculum and video review committees formed as part of that "reimagining" effort. The decision to fire him a month later came as a surprise to committee members, and the circumstances that led to his firing remain unclear. In a statement, an APD spokes­person said, "Due to the increase in workgroup meetings (all meetings are now work groups on various curriculum) and the amount of comments that occur in writing before the meetings, a facilitator was no longer necessary." Look for more on this story next week.

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