Austin police officer ‘acted like he didn’t believe’ sex assault victim, memo says

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A newly released memo from Austin Police Department revealed an officer was temporarily suspended in August after a review of his actions during a March sex assault call.

In a memo, Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon suspended Officer Brian O’Quinn for violation of rules after a complaint to the independent non-police Office of Police Oversight detailed O’Quinn’s response to a call for service from a woman who said she’d been sexually assaulted.

The complaint alleged the victim told O’Quinn what happened and that he was “rude and acted like he didn’t believe her when she was trying to report a sexual assault…” Moreover, the complaint explained that O’Quinn didn’t arrest the suspect — who the victim identified at the scene — even though he was detained at the time.

Chacon writes:

“Ofc. O’Quinn admittedly failed to interview the complainant [caller] with the appropriate amount of dignity and respect. Of specific note, Ofc. O’Quinn displayed doubts to the complainant and others regarding her statements by question the legitimacy of her claims.”

APD Chief Joseph Chacon

The chief further explains that O’Quinn didn’t relay important details to the on-call Sex Crimes detective, in addition to admitting he didn’t contact the Crime Scene Unit or ensure the scene was secured and evidence was collected.

No photos were taken and the suspect was not asked any questions about the incident, Chacon says. He writes that O’Quinn’s actions will likely hinder any potential efforts to investigate or prosecute the case.

Chacon says O’Quinn accepted responsibility and expressed regret during an Internal Affairs interview, saying that he didn’t “think he was fair and impartial towards her at all. Like I said, it should have been face value and just — and do what you need to do.”

“I’m literally just disappointed in how I acted on this call.”

Ofc. Brian O’Quinn

Chacon writes that O’Quinn agreed to his 20-day suspension, which ended Sept. 19.

Accountability at APD

As with movements nationwide, there’s been an increased demand and effort made for accountability within policing in Austin over the past year.

Officer-involved injuries to several protesters during racial and social justice rallies last summer sparked a cascade of changes with APD. In the months after the protests, the OPO says it received hundreds of complaints of officer over-use of force and lack of de-escalation.

Austin Office of Police Oversight asks APD to review over 200 complaints related to actions during protests

In summer 2020 alone, the OPO released 227 formal complaints related to actions by Austin officers during protests. The protests included the injuries of several Austinites who said their time at the rallies ended with injuries due to “less-lethal” ammunition deployed by Austin police.

Reported behavior by APD officers during the protests ultimately led to then-APD Chief Brian Manley announcing the department would no longer use bean bag rounds during crowd situations. Then, in August 2020, the Austin City Council voted to move about $150 million from the APD budget into other areas of public safety and health.

Austin protests in summer 2020 (Picture: KXAN/Alex Caprariello)

The decision was criticized and viewed by some — included Texas Gov. Greg Abbott — as “defunding” Austin’s police force.

In a speech made the day then-Interim Chief Chacon became permanent chief, Chacon stressed that APD “needs a reset,” saying he’d work to help all Austinites feel supported by the department.

Changes made under Chacon include a change in the timeliness and transparency of video footage of officer-involved incidents where civilians are harmed. Previously, videos wouldn’t be released publicly for up to 60 days. Chacon said he has gotten that timeline to under 10 days.

Less than one month ago, the OPO requested APD investigate the hundreds of outstanding complaints against officers. The office says only 27 of the over 200 have been investigated.

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