AUSTIN (KXAN) — Three Austin City Council members have called for the resignation of the city’s police chief, Brian Manley, over his department’s response to police brutality protests.
During the second day of an emergency meeting on Friday, Council Member Greg Casar said he had a positive relationship with Manley in previous years but was concerned about a diminishing relationship in the past 18 months.
“For our city to heal and for our community to make progress, I believe the honorable thing would be for you to resign as police chief,” Casar said.
Austin Police Dept. is facing mounting criticism for its use of less-lethal, bean bag, rounds in response to police brutality protests.
Only the Austin city manager has the authority to fire the police chief, not the city council. Council Member Jimmy Flannigan joined Casar’s call for Manley to resign, urging Manley to find an avenue to assist reform efforts in a civilian capacity.
“I have had many concerns long before this weekend and ultimately for me I would encourage you to consider a path in this movement for reform where your role is not in the seat that you are in right now,” Flannigan said.
Council Member Delia Garza also said Manley should step down.
Council Member Sabino Renteria told Manley: “I’m really losing confidence in you.” He did not call for Manley to resign but said that should be the course of action if reform efforts aren’t executed properly.
A 20-year-old man, Justin Howell, who was recording a video with his phone near APD headquarters was struck in the head with a bean bag round and remains in critical condition. Howell had been standing next to someone who threw a water bottle at officers.
A 16-year-old boy standing on a berm near I-35 was struck with a bean bag round in the head on his way home from work.
A pregnant woman was reportedly shot in the stomach with a bean bag round.
Manley said earlier this week that all of these incidents are under review. He announced Thursday that APD will no longer use bean bag rounds in crowd situations.
On Friday, Manley said a new policy will require that officers will not target the head or neck area with a less-lethal round, unless in a deadly force situation. He said there is no indication that any rubber bullet rounds were used.
“We saw some horrific outcomes, outcomes no one expected,” Manley said. “I can tell you many on my team have seen the injuries that were caused by that. We’ve never seen that before.”
Ernesto Rodriguez, Austin-Travis County Emergency EMS chief, said 53 protester incidents involved emergency medical services. Twenty-nine patients had to be transported to the hospital, 11 of which had injuries caused by less-lethal weapons.
One patient, Rodriguez said, had an open skull fracture. Another had a bean bag round embedded in the lower cavity of their jaw. Another suffered a bean bag round to the temple, causing a hematoma.
“All of these injuries are potentially lethal,” Rodriguez said.
“We made an attempt in the beginning that we were not going to have I-35 closed by protesters… those officers then found themselves being pelted by rocks or bottles,” said Manley, at Friday’s continuation of the special called council meeting.
The Office of Police Oversight, which accepts complaints against the police from the public, has submitted 159 vetted complaints related to protests to APD internal affairs for investigation.
OPO Director Farah Muscadin called the complaint volume “unprecedented.”
It’s up to APD, however, whether these cases will be investigated.
Manley said 15 officers suffered minor injuries during the protests.
The Travis County District Attorney’s Office said it’s investigating the recent protests that left several people seriously injured.
In a statement, DA Margaret Moore said they requested and were granted access to the investigations being conducted by APD’s Special Investigation Unit.
She said there are 10 such cases currently open and they’re reviewing the status of these investigations daily