AUSTIN (KXAN) — A former assistant chief at the Austin Police Department who recently retired has responded to news that an investigation into an anonymous complaint against him will soon begin.
On Thursday, Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk told city leaders in a letter that he decided to approve an outside investigation into an anonymous complaint filed with the Office of Police Oversight against Justin Newsom and others in the department.
In the anonymous complaint, which KXAN obtained Friday afternoon through an open records request, the complaint reads:
“I have been advised allegedly that AC Newsom, on a continous [sic] basis for at least the last decade, has used the word “n—–” to describe African Americans. I have been advised that AC Newsom, went to Chief Manley explaining that someone may have possession of text exchanges where he was using “n—–” in the conversation. Chief Manley asked if it was possible that someone did in fact have screenshots of these conversations and AC Newsom [sic] said yes. Allegedly everyone on the executive floor (to include officers, Assistant Chiefs, Chief of Staff and administrative staff) knew about this conversation between Chief Manley and AC Newsom. All Assistant Chiefs were made aware of AC Newsom using the extremely derogatory term “n—–” and failed to report it for investigation or review. Specifically while advising President Obama landed in Austin AC Newsom stated “Negro one down”. When describing Council woman Ora Houston AC Newsom stated “She is a dumb n—– but a nice lady” •When talking about Chief Dixon AC Newsom stated “Frank is a n—– but he is our n—–” •When on a Special Response Team deployment AC Newsom called Officer LaMarcus Wells and Officer Kheston Campbell “Stupid f—— n——”. This was in front of other SRT personnel and SRT supervisors. It has also been alleged that AC Newsom was involved in a family violence altercation with [redacted], a current city employee. On one occurance [sic] a Park Ranger had to step in to deal with the altercation. I ask that all of these allegations be investigated.”
The complete document can be found below:
In a statement, regarding the complaint, Newsom said:
“Although I don’t remember having made the alleged statements, I have used inappropriate language in private conversations with friends. Racial insensitivity is inexcusable and doesn’t reflect my values, the values of our community, or the Austin Police Department. “
The complaint, from the Office of Police Oversight, also states that “the entire executive floor (including both sworn and civilian employees) was allegedly aware” of the conversation had between APD Chief Brian Manley and Newsom — which is listed in the above complaint.
Another complaint alleges Manley agreed to keep homophobic sentiments a secret. It said in part, “Chief Manley has also supported Assistant Chief Gay in forcing [redacted] to attend Christian gay conversion therapy.”
Council Members Natasha Harper-Madison, Greg Casar, Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza and community activists held a press conference early Friday in response to the allegations. At that time, Harper-Madison said the complaint alleged Newsom used the n-word to describe both national and local political leaders, and within APD.
KXAN previously reported on a complaint filed against Newsom accusing him of derogatory language during his time with the department. The complaint was filed one day before Newsom’s retirement after 23 years.
In a call with Newsom at that time, he told KXAN his retirement had nothing to do with allegations made against him, “I don’t know if a complaint was filed, I haven’t seen it or heard of one.”
“Despite using poor judgment, I hope my 23-year career as a police officer who treated everyone with dignity and respect will reflect my best intentions to serve this city,” Newsom wrote in response to the allegations Friday. “I sincerely apologize to anyone that I may have hurt with my words.”
Cronk says the decision to investigate Newsom comes after receiving the formal complaints prepared by the Director of Police Oversight Farah Muscadin.
The letter states, in part:
“I want to be very clear that my expectation for all of us who work for the City of Austin is that we treat each other, and every person we encounter, with dignity and respect. Racist language, slurs, intolerance, and derogatory behaviors are completely unacceptable in our community. I am saddened to have received these anonymous allegations, and I intend to fully understand if there is any truth to them. If there is, I will take appropriate action.”
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement that the complaint makes “horrible and disturbing” allegations.
“Each of us has a duty to be proactive when incidents of racism are alleged or arise,” Adler wrote. “The Manager is correct to initiate a third party, independent investigation. The community needs to know and then deal with the truth.”
Harper-Madison and community activists called for the city to investigate and confront racism at an individual and systemic level.
“The idea that an open racist could rise to the top of the ranks of our police department should shake every Austinite to their very core,” Harper-Madison said.
Chaz Moore, with the Austin Justice Coalition, specifically asked the city to take six steps, including:
- Conducting an Austin Police-Department-wide audit of social media, and a review of employee’s department-issued email and cell phone communications
- Revise disciplinary policies about racist communications and have it applied equally, regardless of rank
- Ensure evidence of racial bias that is more than 180 days old doesn’t preclude application of discipline
- After an investigation, provide evidence of racial bias to the District Attorney to inform the defense in any cases where the officer was involved, and determine where racial bias “may have resulted in false or inflated charges or racially discriminatory outcomes”
- Release APD training materials to the public for review
- Halt new cadet classes until a new curriculum is developed
“We ask that the city do more than just verify existing allegations against one or two leaders,” Moore said. “When racism is tolerated at the top levels of the department, that racism is going to allow racism to fester at every level.”