AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk is asking city council to confirm interim Police Chief Brian Manley during its meeting next week.
Cronk said he intends to have an item appointing Manley as Austin’s next police chief on the June 14 agenda and offered to discuss his support beforehand.
Cronk noted there were two televised community forums and a comment period that allowed users to submit their thoughts in both English and Spanish.
“Many of the residents provided positive feedback regarding Chief Manley’s character as an honest and trustworthy leader who effectively led the department through this interim period and noted his outstanding leadership in responding to the Austin bombings,” Cronk said in a Friday letter to Mayor Steve Adler and the city council.
“Citizens have also valued his knowledge of Austin and policing as a 28-year veteran of the department and his engagement in this community.”
Cronk did say there were some concerns about whether or not Manley can change the culture of the department in regards to community policing, oversight and accountability, but he said those concerns were mostly because he is an internal candidate.
In a press conference Friday, Cronk and Manley both said they’d use that feedback to make improvements to the police force moving forward.
“I actually very much appreciate the process that we went through this past month, as well with all of the community engagement, because that gave me an opportunity to hear directly from the community,” Manley said.
Both Manley and Cronk emphasized scrutiny on officer interaction with the public, especially people who have mental health issues.
“I heard over and over how critical it was for the relationship between not only law enforcement, but city government as a whole in working with our population with mental challenges,” Cronk said during the press conference.
As they made their announcement, some community activists, who have been critical of Austin police in the past, stood behind them. Others, however, say there’s still work to be done.
“It’s really hard to imagine a shift, a cultural shift, whenever its an individual who’s spent decades on the same force,” said Rebecca Sanchez of Grassroots Leadership.
Sanchez pointed out that the announcement of Manley’s appointment came just one day after a 20-year-old woman with a knife was shot and killed by an Austin police officer, even after APD enacted a new de-escalation policy at the start of the year.
“A person is dead,” Sanchez said. “A person is dead. There were a number of people who had a lot more power at their belt and a lot more tools to use than, clearly, she did, in the moment.”
Manley says his first priority will be in the training of his newest officers.
“Before we start the next cadet class, we’re going to really do an evaluation from top to bottom of our training,” he said Friday.
Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said the police union looked forward to working with Manley, but warned he would be starting off his new position with “one hand tied behind his back.”
“It will be extremely difficult to move the department forward without a labor contract that allows the department to hire more officers and pay them fairly,” Casaday said.
Referring to conversations he had with Manley, Cronk said he outlined the following items as areas that Manley agreed to focus on if his post becomes permanent:
- Safety: Reducing the crime rate and “to determine the best DNA lab capability for Austin-Travis County.”
- Community policing and transparency: Increasing transparency, community policing, diversity training and being “supportive of ways to enhance police oversight and officer accountability opportunities within and outside of any meet and confer agreement.”
- Staffing: Enhancing diversity on all levels, including bringing “new and diverse perspectives to policing by acquiring executive-level talent at the sworn and non-sworn ranks.”
- Training: Requiring assistant chiefs and commanders to undergo “Undoing Racism” training before the end of the calendar year and “enhance de-escalation training with more effective response to individuals with mental health crises.”
- Promote equity and inclusion: Continuing to “value immigrant and guest rights by valuing safety over status,” supporting the Homeless Outreach Street Team to address the root cause of the issue and supporting the sobriety center to reduce low-level offense arrests.
Former Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, who now oversees Houston’s police department, noted his support for Manley in a tweet, saying “Congratulations to
@chief_manley! The best indicator of future performance is past performance; his track record is well documented and tremendously positive. I look forward to seeing what the next chapter brings to the @Austin_Police & @austintexasgov.”