Austin council member wants APD to find out if employees were involved in US Capitol riots

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Friday morning, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley issued a department-wide statement condemning the actions of rioters at the U.S. Capitol last week.

“For me, the visual of those rioters illegally entering the Capitol, committing acts of violence and vandalism against one of the greatest symbols of democracy, attacking law enforcement officials, and threatening the safety and security of our elected officials rivals the images of the terrorist acts committed on 9/11 that took so many lives and will forever stand as a stain on our society,” Manley wrote.

He added: “I know that regardless of where you stand on political issues, you understand the absolute need to put those beliefs and feelings aside when carrying out your duties.”

The words came after an email back-and-forth between Austin’s top police officer and city council member Alison Alter, who urged Manley earlier to take a stronger stance on the matter. She also called for Manley to launch a proactive investigation to see if any APD employees participated in the deadly attack on Jan. 6.

Alter told Manley in an email Thursday her conversations with APD officers suggest expectations of police culture aren’t always clear.

“At a time when our country and our city are shaken, speaking up and sharing your views and expectations clearly presents an opportunity to lead your department and build trust with the broader community,” said Alter, who was recently re-elected to the District 10 seat. “I frankly do not understand the hesitancy.”

It comes as law enforcement agencies around the country prepare for armed protests in the days leading up to the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden. Expecting protests, the Texas Department of Public Safety plans to deploy additional officers at the Texas Capitol this weekend.

Manley was less receptive to the idea of an investigation into his own employees.

“The amount of resources it would take to conduct an investigation into the hundreds, if not over a thousand officers who were not on duty that day would be overwhelming and would pull investigators and others away from investigating actual complaints of misconduct we have received through our normal course of business,” Manley said in an email to Alter on Thursday.

Manley added he spoke with the FBI, and asked federal investigators to let him know if they linked any Austin Police Department employees to the riots. No APD employees have been linked to the events at this time.

An Associated Press review of public records, social media posts and videos shows at least 21 current or former members of the U.S. military or law enforcement have been identified as being at or near the Capitol riot, with more than a dozen others under investigation but not yet named. In many cases, those who stormed the Capitol appeared to employ tactics, body armor and technology such as two-way radio headsets that were similar to those of the very police they were confronting.

APD did not make Manley available for an interview Friday. The department could not provide a dollar estimate for the cost of such an investigation, but said it would involve searching through thousands’ of employees’ social media accounts.

“If the Department receives a complaint regarding an employee’s participation in the riots that took place at the US Capitol, we would initiate an Internal Affairs investigation and also liaison with the FBI, since they are leading the criminal investigation,” said a department spokesperson.

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