AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin Police Department officer was suspended for 10 days for using a harmful stereotype to describe a protester in May, according to a disciplinary memo from APD Chief Brian Manley.
Officer Ryan Seweryn will serve his suspension until Dec. 5 after an internal investigation found he referred to a protester as “that gay dude with the short shorts in the black shirt,” while describing the person to fellow officers. The suspension officially began Nov. 26 at the conclusion of the investigation.
The memo says it was recorded on Seweryn’s body-worn camera, and when interviewed by internal affairs personnel, Seweryn admitted to describing the protester that way and said, “if there was a male in feminine clothing I would describe that individual as gay … in order for my fellow officers to identify the individual.”
The memo goes on to say that Officer Seweryn told the internal affairs investigator that he doesn’t assume a person’s sexual orientation based on how they dress, but rather he described the person that way because “the individual’s clothing was consistent with the clothing styles he believed people wore at Gay Pride parades.”
When the investigator asked Officer Seweryn if he met the person he was referring to on the night in question, the officer replied, “No, sir.”
The memo says during the investigation, Officer Seweryn repeatedly said he wasn’t assuming the person’s sexual orientation by the way they dressed, but rather it was a “description of the clothing of the person, not a physical description of the person themselves.”
Officer Seweryn said he has never used the term “the straight dude” when describing a subject, the memo says. The investigator asked if the APD Training Academy teaches cadets to use the term “gay” as a descriptor, to which the officer replied, “not as a description, no sir.” He also said he wouldn’t feel comfortable using that kind of descriptor over the radio.
The memo goes on to say, “in spite of his unprofessional and inappropriate comment, Officer Seweryn concluded his internal affairs interview by stating that he did not feel like he violated APD General Orders.”
This is Seweryn’s second 10-day suspension since September, the memo says. The first suspension regarded a meme sent via text message in March that was “inappropriate and disrespectful” to a colleague.
The internal investigation found Officer Seweryn violated the following rules and regulations of the Austin Police Department:
- Purpose and Scope
- Impartial Attitude and Courtesy
Both fall under the purview of the department’s “responsibility to the community” policy, the memo says.