ACC board modifies policies to emphasize limits for campus police searches, use of force

Austin

An image of the Austin Community College District Police Department badge and officers. Image courtesy ACC website.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Community College District Board of Trustees voted Monday to modify its policies to better align with the current policies of the district’s police force, which emphasize limitations on searches, use of force and racial profiling. These policies also ensure accountability measures, which will result in the Austin Community College District Police Department making regular reports back to district leadership.

ACC told KXAN this vote was unanimous. Trustee Nan McRaven was absent for part of the meeting. Meeting documents stated the policies were discussed several times by the board over the past few months.

A statement from the district made clear this vote from the trustees did not change policy for the district’s police department. Rather, ACC said, these changes brought the board’s policies in line with several elements ACCDPD already had in written policy and in training (including limitations on searches, limitations on the use of force and a prohibition on racial profiling).

A district spokesperson explained the board making these changes means that going forward, ACCDPD cannot alter its policy regarding limitations on searches, limitations on use of force or the prohibition on racial profiling without approval from the district board.

Additionally, these changes will require ACCPD to present annual reports to the board on racial profiling, commendations, innovative training and awards/promotions.

The modifications to the board’s policies note college officials (other than ACCDPD) may not search a student, their belongings or their car. The modifications also emphasize ACCDPD must comply with state, federal and constitutional law if they are going to search a student or their belongings.

Meeting documents noted that despite these changes, emails, storage and services provided by ACC may be searched, because they belong to the college.

ACC Trustee Stephanie Gharakhanian posted on Twitter that ACC District Board of Trustees took unanimous action to pass a series of policing reforms.

“In this moment of reckoning about policing in America, #highered has the opportunity and duty to act. I hope other college boards will join us in passing similar reforms,” she said in one Tweet.

With 88 officers (including the Chief of police) ACCDPD is the third-largest police department in Travis County, ACC said. Its officers respond to the entirety of the ACC district, including campuses and parking lots.

This comes as law enforcement agencies across the country are addressing calls for police reforms and racial justice. Austin City Council voted this summer to approve changes to restrict the use of force in certain instances by the Austin Police Department.

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