Top Austin Headlines of 2021: D.A., C.A. – Knock Off the Cophead BS

Aug. 3: The district and county attorneys challenge Austin police intransigence and dishonesty as they attempt to reduce the number of arrests for minor crimes


Travis County D.A. José Garza in 2020 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

The escalating conflict between public safety protectors and disruptors reached new levels of bitterness in August when Travis County District Attorney José Garza and Travis County Attorney Delia Garza pushed back publicly against the cop lobby and its attacks on them and on justice reforms.

The harshest blows were directed at José Garza by the Austin Police Association and the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, upset that he delivered on his campaign promise to present cases of excessive police violence to the grand jury – some (but not all) of which led to indictments, one of which Garza later dropped as unfair to the officer involved. Along with their allies in the local and state GOP, the APA and CLEAT were also bothered by the D.A. and C.A. moving (as they'd promised on the campaign trail) to put fewer people in jail, particularly for minor offenses, and implementing arrest review policies that require cops to contact prosecutors before taking people into custody. In their Aug. 3 letter to City Manager Spencer Cronk, the two Garzas recounted anecdotes from constituents who'd been told by Austin police that their calls for service couldn't be investigated because of the two prosecutors' reform policies, which is not true.

Police union President Ken Casaday accused both Garzas of violating state law with policies making the city less safe, even though most of the cases dismissed after arrest review were nonviolent drug offenses and Casaday agreed that the officers' conduct, as reported by the prosecutors, was unprofessional. About a month later, now-permanent Chief Joseph Chacon quietly incorporated arrest review procedures into APD's General Orders.

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