AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Police Department Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon will take over as interim chief of the department following Brian Manley’s retirement, the city announced Monday
City Manager Spencer Cronk, along with Austin’s Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano and Director of Human Resources Joya Hayes, held a virtual news conference Monday to introduce Chacon and discuss the search for a permanent replacement.
Cronk said his goal is to have a permanent replacement named by August.
“We need to have a chief in short order,” Cronk said. “We’re not going to have this processed delayed for a year, or two years. I am committed to this timeline, and I will make sure that we provide both the comprehensive engagements and the aggressive recruitment strategy that our search firm will be providing to get the next police chief on board.”
Cronk said community engagement will be “at every level,” of the search, and Cronk continued to say that this is the first step in rebuilding trust with the community.
“We need to make sure we find the next chief for the City of Austin that fits the values of what we deserve,” Cronk said. “It begins with leadership. and we need to make sure we have the right chief that will lead our community and our department into the future.”
To say the department has come under fire with parts of the Austin community is an understatement. There are several ongoing lawsuits against the city, department and its leadership, and the Austin City Council moved $150 million away from the department’s budget. The culmination of “reimagining public safety” starts with the person who becomes the city’s next chief, Cronk said.
When Cronk was asked if the new chief would be open to change and help implement it, he said, “that is one of the most critical factors in this search process.”
“We obviously want to hear from the community, but what we’ve heard so far is that the next leader needs to be open and willing to embrace the changes we’re looking for with in the department,” Cronk said.
The biggest difference from when Manley was named chief in 2018 and the upcoming search, Cronk said, is that they’re starting with an “open and national, dare I say international, search.”
Joya Hayes, the city’s director of human resources, said they’ve updated the chief’s job description with feedback they’ve received from the community, and people will have a chance to meet and greet Cronk and other city officials and talk with them about their wants and needs in a new chief.
“We’re setting a tone for what the new expectations will be for our chief,” she said. “Through SpeakUp Austin, citizens can provide us feedback before we develop the profile, so they will have the opportunity to provide us the key competencies we’ll use in the search for the police chief.”
Hayes also said citizens will have a choice to evaluate top candidates once they’ve been identified.
Cronk said Chacon won’t be a “placeholder” or a “standing” interim police chief, but an “active participant.”
“We have, in real-time, discussions around how we’re transforming our cadet academy, we know there are going to be conversations about our budget going forward,” Cronk said. “We need to have leaders that ensure we face these challenges head-on and not waiting to make decisions.”
When asked why he decided to name Chacon the interim chief instead of Troy Gay, the department’s chief of staff and second-in-command to Manley, Cronk said it was an “incredibly difficult choice.”
“There are leaders with many experiences and skill sets that vary across the department, and even outside the agency,” Cronk said. “It was important that I found a balance, and I think Chief Chacon has that balance.”
Cronk also said he hopes that internal candidates apply for the job.
Chacon has been with APD since 1998 and was most recently in charge of the Central Bureau, which oversees downtown policing, parks and lakes and special events.
This comes after current APD Chief Brian Manley announced his retirement in February, saying he is ready after 30 years as part of the force.
“I am at peace with my decision,” said Chief Manley in an email to Cronk and the entire department at the time of the announcement.
Manley became chief in June 2018 after leading Austin in his interim position through some of the most terrifying weeks the city has experienced: the bombings three years ago. His retirement takes effect at the end of March.
Austin City Council will vote to confirm Chacon as the new interim chief at Thursday’s scheduled meeting.