Council votes to investigate allegations of racism within the Austin Police Department

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Thursday night, Austin City Council voted unanimously to approve an investigation into alleged racism within the Austin Police Department.

Decision on APD’s June cadet class

The resolution, which was approved unanimously on Thursday night, calls for City Manager Spencer Cronk to initiate an audit of the department’s training materials, course descriptions and other procedures administered to cadet classes and active officers.

One component of the resolution would pause the initiation of APD’s June cadet class if the audit wasn’t completed 30 days prior.

Council will receive a preliminary report on the audit in 2020, and a final report is expected to be completed by December 2021.

“We will do everything that we can do to meet these milestones in the timeline that’s prescribed,” said Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. “So we can maintain that June cadet class by meeting the milestones in this resolution.”

This comes after an anonymous complaint was filed with Austin’s Office of Police Oversight, alleging that Former Assistant Chief Justin Newsom used racist and derogatory language toward African Americans for years. Newsom retired the day after the complaint was listed as being filed.

In a briefing later Thursday night, Manley said:

“As we have done so many times at the police department, we welcome these reviews… We look forward to undergoing these reviews, along with the reviews that have already been done.”

Manley continued to explain that the department is already taking measures to ensure equity, saying that taking a more delayed look at “who’s coming in” to the department is part of making changes.

Manley also expressed that he did not feel his job was in jeopardy, saying “I’m aware and understanding of the concerns that exist both within the department and within the community. I stand ready to serve and implement whatever comes out of these recommendations.”

Automatic Aid agreements – Passed

The vote to approve the Austin Fire Department’s Automatic Aid agreements with other jurisdictions has been postponed multiple times. On Thursday, council members will hear it again.

“Automatic Aid” refers to automatically dispatching the nearest available first responders to an emergency. The goal is to improve response times, especially to those living along jurisdictional boundaries. The agreement is for an initial term of one year, with up to nine additional one-year terms.

The agreements would be with Travis County Emergency Service Districts, Williamson County ESDs, and the cities of Leander, Cedar Park, Round Rock and Georgetown.

Since February 2013, the Austin Fire Department has had Automatic Aid agreements with Travis County ESDs. Over the last year, the Travis County fire chiefs have been meeting with Williamson County fire chiefs from the Cedar Park, Round Rock, Leander, Georgetown, Hutto, Sam Bass and Jollyville fire departments.

Re-naming of Dove Springs Recreation Center

Council will likely approve the re-naming of the Dove Springs Recreation Center, in honor of George Morales III. Morales has been a member of the Dove Springs Recreation Center Advisory Board for 20 years.

State Representative Eddie Rodriguez wrote a letter of support for the name change.

A new airport grease trap contractor

Council is likely to authorize a multi-term contract with Southwaste Disposal, LLC to provide grease trap cleaning and maintenance at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

The previous contractor, Liquid Environmental Solutions, has been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars over safety protocol violations stemming from an April incident at an underground grease trap at the airport’s East Loading Dock.

One of its employees, Lonnie Deary, suffocated due to lack of oxygen and hydrogen sulfide. He died shortly after.

Funding for youth homeless services – Passed

Another item on Thursday’s agenda would authorize negotiations with LifeWorks for the expansion of youth homeless services.

This would provide $160,000 for an additional 12 months beginning in September 2020.

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