AUSTIN (KXAN) – This weekend marks eight years for Art Acevedo as Austin’s top cop.
The 50-year old Cuban-born Acevedo is Austin’s eighth police chief and its first Hispanic in the job. Son of a cop in Havana, the family moved to America when he was four. After serving as a commander with California’s Highway Patrol, Acevedo took the Austin job at a time of turmoil in the department and high tensions in the minority community over some questionable shootings. He began an aggressive outreach to the neighborhoods, toughened the standards for his officers and demanded more accountability from his top brass.
The chief said he is most proud of his department’s crisis performance to incidents like random shootings and the Echelon Building plane attack. “The biggest high for me has been our outstanding response to critical instants,” said Acevedo. “Our people stand up and rise to the occasion.”
He is also proud of the better relations between police and residents and the way each has responded to the other, building new lines of trust and communication.
KXAN spoke with two former city council members who were there when Acevedo was hired. “I think Art has done a tremendous job,” said Sheryl Cole. “He’s made it a point to not only get himself into the community but also the officers.” “I would have to grade him very high, an A+,” said Mike Martinez. “He is a hands on, community oriented type of chief and I think the community has respected that and returned the goodwill to him.”
With the last disputed police shooting two years ago, east side leaders like Nelson Linder, head of the Austin NAACP say Acevedo is making progress, but remains a ‘work in progress.’
“The biggest issue going forward is going to be cameras and trying to enforce the policies we have in place,” said Linder. “I give him a passing grade but work remains to be done. Some of these shootings have got to stop, we cannot tolerate anymore unnecessary shootings.”
Acevedo feels that pain, too. “Anytime you have those critical incidents your heart goes out to families, but your heart also goes out to those poor officers who have to live with that.”
The chief has lost two officers on duty during his watch, and he feels that as well. “Two is two too many. It’s always hard to deal with but on balance it’s been a great eight years. I love this city and really love the people that I lead.”
At one time rumored to be leaving for Dallas, Acevedo is still here. Smiling, he says he has no desire to leave Austin, and especially no desire to ever enter politics. Ever.