AUSTIN (KXAN) — After large protests two years ago, the Austin Police Department released a report about how its officers responded then and led to policy changes now, which made the police chief promise the city “will not see a repeat of the events of 2020.”
Chief Joseph Chacon said the After Action Report identified 17 areas where the department could work to improve its protest response. The department took on this review after crowds formed outside police headquarters downtown during the summer of 2020 to protest the deaths of George Floyd and Mike Ramos.
“I can promise you that we will never see another response similar to the one in summer 2020,” Chacon said during a news conference Friday afternoon. He was not the chief during the time of the protests.
Of the 17 changes, Chacon highlighted updated de-escalation techniques for cadets and current officers, improvements to preparing for crowd control and riot management as well as training to better coordinate among various APD units. He admitted that officers were unprepared and undertrained to handle what unfolded during the summer of 2020.
“These changes… will ensure that we are better prepared, better trained, better equipped that we’ve ever been before,” Chacon said.
Chacon also said one strength focused on officers working through “substantial abuse” from the crowds and “their dedication to service and safety,” Chacon said. Additionally, he brought up the department’s decision to end use of “bean bag” rounds that seriously injured people when officers fired at them.
The department had already previously announced it planned to discontinue the use of the bean bag rounds, but Friday – Chacon said that decision was made two days into the protest action when department leadership discovered they were faulty.
The City has settled multiple lawsuits with people we were hit in the face. Some cases are still making their way through the legal system. An attorney representing a protester in one of the ongoing cases said he still has concerns over crowd control devices.
“I don’t know how much of the issue was the thing they were using to shoot people in the face as opposed to the concept of shooting people in the face as a form of protest engagement.” said Maff Caponi, who’s representing a protester in a suit filed last month.
Chief Chacon said he could not comment on officers’ intentions because some have been indicted and others are under internal review.
The police chief worked to explain why this report took more than two years for the department to release publicly. He said the ongoing review along with leadership changes last year contributed to that.