AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin’s Office of Police Oversight interim director was appointed to the full-time position Friday, according to a City memo.
The Office of Police Oversight director leads the office and oversees “the conduct, practices and policies of the Austin Police Department,” the memo from Interim City Manager Jesus Garza states.
Gail McCant has been the interim director since June, the memo states.
“McCant has previously held positions as Lead Investigator, Human Rights Director for Persons with Disabilities, Administrator of the City of Austin’s Office of Civil Rights, and Employee Relations Partner Sr. for Travis County. Her career as a public servant reflects her unwavering commitment to serving the public and upholding the highest standards of accountability and fairness,” the memo reads.
The City said McCant provides stability to the office after Austin voters approved Prop A, which calls for the Office of Police Oversight to have more access to certain police files, in May.
“Given the resolution just passed by Mayor/Council and the desire to move forward quickly with implementing some aspects of Prop A, it was important to provide stability to the Office of Police Oversight (OPO) and provide clear direction of where we need to head.
We can do that through Gail McCant, given her experience already with the OPO. Gail is someone very familiar with our community as well as the challenges we have been facing with implementing Prop A. Gail also possesses a great deal of expertise with investigations in a variety of areas, including EEO concerns.”City of Austin spokesperson
Interim City Manager Garza has moved several interim leaders into full-time positions within the city. Some of those appointments include the City’s chief information officer and the Austin Resource Recovery director.
Garza is currently serving in an interim role following city council’s vote to part ways with former city manager Spencer Cronk in February. Garza previously served as city manager of Austin under Mayor Kirk Watson in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
City Council reacts to oversight appointment
On Tuesday, the Austin City Council released a statement saying while all members looked forward to having McCant as the next OPO director, they questioned why a national search for her role was forgone.
Our offices have had the opportunity to work with Gail McCant during the preparation and passage of the recently passed APOA implementation ordinance, and we look forward to having her as the next director of the Office of Police Oversight. We found her professional, transparent, and accessible every time we reached out to her.
However, we were surprised there would be no national search for her role, as had been previously stated. Given the significance of this role and the high-profile nature of the office, why was the decision made to forgo a search and instead appoint the OPO director from within the City of Austin?
We hope the City Manager can further explain his thinking on this decision, not only for our own understanding but the understanding of the public who we all serve.
Council Members Qadri, Vela, Velasquez, Fuentes, R. AlterAustin City Council statement