AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Thursday, the consulting group the city of Austin hired to monitor the current Austin Police Academy cadet class will present its findings to city council members on how the 144th Academy is going thus far.
It’s considered a pilot “reimagined” class, where the consulting group, Kroll and Associates is closely monitoring the Academy and its instructors to ensure they’re implementing changes the consulting team recommended prior to the current class’s start in June.
The report, which has been released ahead of Thursday’s briefing, says overall, the Austin Police Department has improved the culture and equity within its Academy, making most of the recommended changes. It says APD’s leadership is striking the right tone, emphasizing community respect and sensitivity as well as cultural competency and critical thinking.
The academy added 30 more hours of community engagement, anti-racism training and double the previous amount of physical fitness training, alongside mindfulness and strategies to cope with the stress of the job.
However, there are a few areas consultants say police trainers still need to work on.
Kroll originally recommended APD bring in civilian community leaders from outside of the department to help teach cadets alongside the department’s training staff made up of sworn police officers. APD did begin the Academy with two straight weeks of community engagement, introducing cadets to important groups in the community with diverse viewpoints on social issues and policing.
However, Kroll also recommended including community leaders in courses throughout the 28-week training and says some Academy staff members have been reluctant to include enough of those outside voices with lived experience in ongoing courses.
Kroll’s report also claims APD’s Training Academy is still too paramilitary. The department has been encouraged to scale back harsh discipline on cadets and encourage more of a mentality of being “guardians” of the community among cadets, rather than “warriors” who fight criminals.
According to Kroll’s report, the group tasked with reviewing the Academy’s training videos has also run into issues. The report says the Community Video Review Panel has faced logistical issues in reviewing a lot of the former training videos and deciding whether they can still be shown, and as a result, cadets have complained there aren’t enough instructional videos being shown. The panel was tasked with reviewing every training video and deciding whether the videos should be recommended for continued use or replaced by more current and equitable training videos.
A posted presentation in response to Kroll’s new report that APD Chief Joseph Chacon will present at Thursday’s meeting says the department plans to continue working with the Community Video Review Panel to refine the process by which leadership selects training videos.
The chief will also share his response to other recommended changes.
The final report from Kroll and Associates will help council members decide whether to resume future cadet academies after this one wraps up, at a time when the police force is clamoring for more staff.
KXAN will continue to sift through the report and highlight more details from it as the council hears it and the community responds.