AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Friday, the City of Austin released a memo detailing the investigation and findings into claims of racism and homophobia within the Austin Police Department.
The investigation, led by San Antonio lawyer Lisa Tatum, looked into a number of complaints filed with Austin’s Office of Police Oversight.
One anonymous complaint alleged that Former Assistant Chief Justin Newsom used racist and derogatory language toward African-Americans for years. Newsom retired the day after the complaint was listed as being filed.
BACKGROUND: City of Austin approves independent investigation into APD allegations
Another complaint claims Chief Brian Manley supported Assistant Chief Troy Gay who advocated for Christian gay conversion therapy.
“During Ms. Tatum’s conversations with officers, one of the themes that emerged questioned the sincerity of city leadership to effectuate the change needed to ensure the Department addresses issues in order to become better,” Cronk wrote in his memorandum.
During its investigation, Tatum Law was able to get a duplicated copy of Newsom’s hard drive, which was searched thoroughly for relevant search terms, including “anti-gay” and the n-word.
Additionally, Tatum Law was granted access to various documents, mobile data and interviews with certain people who reportedly had specific knowledge of the alleged incidents.
The memorandum explains that review of the mobile data yielded no evidence to prove or disprove the claims of racism and homophobia. Tatum explains that documentation and data either didn’t exist or else was purged prior to the investigation.
Tatum Law says it interviewed over 58 witnesses and had over 74 different conversations — these included meetings with current and former APD employees, current leadership, City of Austin employees and a former City Council member.
In the memorandum, Tatum explains that during the course of these interviews, it became clear that many subjects seemed uneasy at giving answers or information out of fear of retaliation — an aspect of APD’s prevalent culture that Tatum would ultimately highlight in her conclusion.
She says that during interviews, some individuals seemed pleased that an outside investigation was being performed on these topics. Additionally, she says that it became clear in interviews that issues of race lie “just below the surface” at APD and that issues of racism and sexism have existed for “decades.”
Tatum asserts that there was a level of frustration among employees that any complaints on these topics would fall on deaf ears.
In her conclusion, Tatum explains that the task of performing the investigation was always going to be tricky, or as she puts it, “being named an honorary detective who was assigned to investigate an outdoor crime scene after it had already rained heavily — twice.”
She says that because the scope of the investigation was so broad — and hinged on discovery of evidence that would likely be hard to find — that ultimately the questions the investigation sought to answer likely can’t be answered.
“As is frequently the case with lawsuits and other disputes, the truth often lies somewhere in the middle (between nothing happened and things happened just as they were alleged to have happened). No one may ever know all of the details about what really happened and we cannot say we know the whole truth as it relates to several of the allegations contained in the pages above.”Lisa Tatum