‘Disturbing findings’ and ‘bombshells’: Austin leaders react to APD racism investigation report


AUSTIN (KXAN) — “Stunning and damning details.”

Austin city leaders held a virtual conference on Monday to discuss the recently wrapped investigation into racism and homophobia within the Austin Police Department.

On Friday, the City of Austin released a memo detailing the investigation and findings — or lack thereof — into the allegations.

One 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.

Another complaint claims Chief Brian Manley supported Assistant Chief Troy Gay who advocated for Christian gay conversion therapy.

The investigation, led by San Antonio lawyer Lisa Tatum, looked into a number of complaints and ultimately concluded that there was no evidence to support or refute the allegations, saying “we may never know what really happened.”

During the discussion on Monday, Austin City Council members Natasha Harper-Madison and Jimmy Flannigan, and Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, were joined by Chas Moore, of the Austin Justice Coalition; and Meme Styles, of Measure Austin, among others.

Harper-Madison had some strong words about the investigation’s findings about APD’s culture, saying:

“While investigators never found that particular smoking gun, their report is packed with plenty of other bombshells, including evidence of racism, failed leadership, cronyism, and a prevailing fear of retaliation that keeps would-be whistleblowers silent.”

Investigators also revealed the President of the Austin Police Association, Ken Casaday, broke department protocol by informing Newsom of the investigation before the allegations were made public. The report suggests Newsom then used Chief Brian Manley’s delayed response to his advantage. 

Casaday released a statement in response saying: “All the APA leadership did was let a dues-paying member know that the media was asking the APA questions about an issue that the Chief of Police had known about for weeks.”

Casaday can no longer be punished for violating department protocol, however, due to APD’s 180-day rule which prevents officers from being reprimanded for allegations that date back more than six months.

Some council members want to renegotiate the police contract to amend that rule.

In her statements on Monday, Harper-Madison explained that she was disappointed in the general sentiment shared by rank-and-file officers that city leaders don’t have it in them to bring about real change within the department.

She added: “I am here today to tell those officers — and all other department personnel — that I am going to work my hardest to prove you wrong.”

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