AUSTIN (KXAN) — Shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday evening, Austin City Council voted on a plan to reinstate the city’s police training academy by early June.
The decision was a yes, but not a resounding one. The vote was 8-1-2, with Council Member Greg Casar voting against and Council Members Natasha Harper-Madison and Vanessa Fuentes abstaining.
There are several caveats to the 144th cadet class beginning on June 7. The department will need to implement dozens of short-term recommendations, which include finalizing replacements for outdated training videos and bringing in a variety of community members to help teach courses.
Amendment language approved by council says City Manager Spencer Cronk cannot bring a budget for the June class to council members until the recommendations are met or will be met within 30 days. Updates on the progress of the academy reforms would be presented to council in April
Council language also says the budget cannot be brought until after a couple of final reports and recommendations are presented to the body. That includes one from the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force, scheduled for April 20.
The vote followed hours of discussion and comment from speakers, a large majority who urged council members to vote against the item. Many felt council needed to hear the final report from the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force and other reforms needed to be made before moving ahead with a new class.
Council Member Alison Alter called her ‘yes’ vote a “leap of faith.”
Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement that while Austin needs a new cadet class, they also need to meet these outlined objectives.
“Last summer, Austin City Council made a commitment to the community to conduct an in-depth review of our police academy. The professional and task force review of training materials has validated the need for reform and corrective actions to better prepare cadets for their roles as guardians of public safety for all members of our community. The next step in our review process will be to reform how those materials are taught. The city manager has laid out a timeline that accomplishes this with a June 7 start date.”
“I am hoping the upcoming cadet class will be cultural change-makers for our community.”-Mayor Steve Adler
The 144th class would be the first one since council voted to cancel all cadet classes until at least this summer to allow time to review and overhaul the police department. It will essentially be a pilot for observation as longer-term recommendations are implemented.
Further amendment language passed Thursday would require an independent evaluator’s observations of the 144th cadet class to be presented to council at the midpoint of the academy.
The Austin Police Department also has a new training academy division manager.
Anne Li Kringen is an associate professor of Criminal Justice at the University of New Haven. She got her Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from Texas State University.
APD said she’ll focus on ensuring the next cadet class is inclusive and incorporates the community perspectives highlighted through the reimagining public safety process.