AUSTIN (KXAN) — Margo Frasier has a unique perspective into what Austin’s next police chief needs to tackle as the leader of the police department. Frasier is the current police monitor for the city of Austin and has previously served as Travis County Sheriff for many years. Her experience in law enforcement is extensive and works closely with Austin Police Department in critical situations.
In light of the news of Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo’s departure for Houston, KXAN asked police monitor Frasier to list five things Austin’s new chief should focus on, in no particular order.
1. The APD DNA lab
Frasier suggests the lab as a whole needs to be a focus as well as the backlog of cases waiting to be analyzed. KXAN has continuously investigated the problems that led to the closure of APD’s crime lab in June including analysts using scientifically invalid methods and contamination concerns. The results of a scathing audit by Texas Forensic Science Commission into the lab has now called into question the credibility of the DNA results that came out of APD’s lab in 3,600 criminal cases. The lab’s closure has contributed to a backlog of cases awaiting DNA testing. A KXAN indepth report uncovered criminal charges like sexual assault were being dismissed in cases awaiting DNA results. Police Chief Brian Manley has maintained the lab will reopen in 2017 with hundreds of thousands of dollars earmarked for the hiring of more DNA analysts.
2. Police Officer Training
As police monitor Frasier says the next police chief must focus on de-escalation, crisis intervention and hand to hand force. The Austin Police department has come under fire by the Austin Police association after Chief Art Acevedo called on his officers to utilize more hand-to-hand combat over weapons when a person is resisting arrest.
3. The New Contract
Frasier says the contract between the City of Austin and the Austin Police Association is an important one. Such contracts determine the pay, benefits, the hiring process for officers and citizen oversight of the police department. The current agreement ends in 2017.
Chief Acevedo has long touted his position at the Austin Police Department as one that believes in transparency. It was a welcome change in leadership that the Austin Police Association applauded when Acevedo announced he was turning down the Chief of Police job in San Antonio last year.
It’s low according to a survey taken by some Austin Police Association members. Fifty-one percent of active members responded to the survey, or 883 of 1,728 members.
When it came to morale within the department, 55 percent reviewed it as “poor,” followed by 31 percent who said it was “only fair.”