The city of Austin asked for the community’s input Monday evening at its first of two public forums after Interim Police Chief Brian Manley was named the sole candidate for the permanent police chief position.
The forum was held at the Turner-Roberts Recreation Center in east Austin.
Chief Manley answered questions from community members and spoke about his vision for the police department, moving forward.
Many showed up in support of the interim chief.
“He’s been there for us for nearly three decades, so tonight the community’s going to be here for him,” said executive director of the Greater Austin Crime Commission, Cary Roberts.
“He’s a lifelong Austinite, he’s been here forever and I think when your hearts here, it makes a difference,” added Austin resident David McDaniel.
Others, however, brought forward critical questions, focusing on how the chief would establish better relationships with minorities and people with mental health issues, and how he would work to cut down on officers’ use of excessive force.
“What are some things you’re willing to commit to right now, so we know that you are the right person?” Chas Moore of the Austin Justice Coalition said he’s asking of Manley.
The Austin Justice Coalition is requesting that Manley make several changes while the interview process is still ongoing. Those changes include limiting initiatives that could target minority communities, amending the police department’s use of force policy and reforming the way APD handles mental health calls.
“How can we make sure that de-escalation and the sanctity of life is the number one priority?” Moore asked.
Manley acknowledged in the public meeting that there is still work to be done.
“It was a great department when I got in, but we needed to make change, and we’re always going to need to make change,” the interim chief told the crowd.
Manley addressed many of the concerns brought forth by talking about plans he has in the works.
“The DOJ has some models for use of force policies that we’ve sent trainers out to go look at, and we’re going to begin training to that,” he said, naming one example.
According to the city, there’s no set formula or metric for how the public’s input will weigh in City Manager Spencer Cronk’s final decision.
However, Cronk wants to take feedback from the community to determine whether or not to open up a nationwide search for the new chief.
The second public forum will be held Thursday, May 17 at the KLRU Studio on Whitis Avenue from 7 to 8:30 pm.