Advocates pleased with ‘reimagined’ APD cadet class, but say more to be done

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council on Thursday received a progress report on the Austin Police Department’s “reimagined” cadet academy, and police reform advocates are weighing in.

Wednesday, KXAN broke down some of the key findings from Kroll & Associates, the independent group hired by the city to manage the revamped class.

“I’m very happy with a lot of the changes,” said Kathy Mitchell who was part of the panel that has been reviewing the curriculum for the 144th cadet academy currently underway.

Mitchell said she is glad to see a larger focus on officer de-escalation techniques, but added she feels moving forward, there is much more for the cadets to learn when it comes to verbal commands.

“How officers communicate with people,” Mitchell said. “And we’ve seen that in the past with some of the cases, where we all kind of look back and go, ‘That shouldn’t have happened.’ A lot of that goes to how those officers arrived, and how their first communication went.”

In its report, Kroll & Associates said it appears APD is making the most of the recommended changes, something echoed by Joyce James, a local consultant brought on by the city in 2020 to work with the police department on racial inequities.

“I will have to say that, at the leadership level, I have seen an intentional commitment to making the kinds of changes that have been recommended in the Kroll report,” James told KXAN.

While the cadets are learning more about the racial history of Austin, as well as the systemic advantages that come along with the badge, James said she realizes changing the culture of the department is not something that will happen with one academy class.

“To do that in a way that’s not about pointing fingers and laying blame, nor about doing it in a way that makes people feel they’re being called racist, takes some time,” James said.

Kroll & Associates is expected to present its final findings to the city in March.

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