Fired officer files whistleblower lawsuit, claiming APD chiefs retaliated

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Former Assistant Police Chief Jason Dusterhoft is suing Austin Police Department Chief Brian Manley and other top officials, claiming he was retaliated against for blowing the whistle on a culture of wrongdoing and cover-ups within the department.

The lawsuit names the City of Austin, Chief Manley, Assistant Chief Troy Gay and Former Assistant Chief Justin Newsom, who abruptly retired nearly a year ago following complaints that he repeatedly used racist language.

KXAN has reached out to Austin Police Department for comment and will update this story when it responds.

Dusterhoft was fired from APD in 2018 after a woman he was dating accused him of assault during instances of sexual acts. He lost his appeal at the beginning of this year.

Dusterhoft has maintained the activity with that ex-girlfriend was consensual. Travis County prosecutors declined to press charges against him.

The complaint filed by Dusterhoft Wednesday says his blowing the whistle on other employees was a motivating factor in his 2017 demotion to commander, 2018 firing and the continued pursual of his arbitration.

“The ultimate message sent to Dusterhoft and in fact the entire Austin police department was crystal clear,” reads the lawsuit. “If you blow the whistle at APD with respect to officer wrongdoing under Chief Manley you will be punished. If you go along with whatever he wants you to do, you are promoted.”

The complaint says Dusterhoft was one of two different people to file anonymous complaints alleging that former Assistant Chief Justin Newsom used racist language, including through text messages. The complaint says a former APD employee made the other complaint.

Dusterhoft claims that through his arbitration process, he had subpoenas issued to Chief Manley, Troy Gay, Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon, and Assistant Chief Justin Newsom for their text messages, including all text messages that related to him.

“Despite this fact, and in clear violation of the law and policy, all of these witnesses refused to comply,” reads the complaint.

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

A City of Austin spokesperson released a statement to KXAN, saying the allegations raised by Dusterhoft are not new and that city leaders take such allegations very seriously.

“The allegations were the subject of an independent investigation that the City Manager initiated immediately when they were brought to his attention. The results of that investigation have been released to the public. The City is also moving forward with a deeper investigation into the cultural concerns raised as a result of the report issued by Lisa Tatum,” the city statement said.

The lawsuit also states that Dusterhoft had previously informed Chief Manley numerous times about complaints of employees falsifying timesheets. In one case involving a commander, Dusterhoft claims Chief Manley told him to talk with that commander rather than have Internal Affairs look into the issue.

The complaint also says Dusterhoft raised problems within APD’s forensics lab and was told to stand down by Manley.

“Former Assistant Police Chief Jason Dusterhoft has filed this lawsuit so that the people of Austin will know the truth about what has happened and continues to happen at APD and at Austin City Hall,” said Dusterhoft’s attorney John Melton in a statement. “Specifically how whistleblowers are punished for speaking out and wrongdoing is covered up.”

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