AUSTIN (KXAN) — A report evaluating Austin Police Department’s handling of sexual assault allegations is expected to be released in the coming days, after Austin City Council approved the settlement in January.
APD Assistant Chief Jeff Greenwalt said in Monday’s public safety commission meeting that the Police Executive Research Forum report looking into the department’s sexual assault investigation handlings will likely be released later this week or early next week. The report, initially expected to be released in May, was delayed.
From there, additional requirements and recommendations could be made regarding department training, budget expenditures or protocol changes.
Jenny Ecklund, a partner with Thompson Coburn — the attorney for the plaintiffs behind the two lawsuits — said the city and firm are ironing out the remaining details before finalizing signatures. The settlement is expected to be complete within the next 30 to 45 days; no changes have been made to the settlement terms agreed upon in January, she added.
That agreed-upon settlement council approved in January authorized $825,000 to be awarded and shared among the 15 plaintiffs behind the two lawsuits, in addition to $50,000 paid to their attorneys. Both Travis County and APD have implemented changes to help make their sexual assault investigations more trauma-informed and survivor-centric.
Some of the APD departmental changes already made include:
- The Victims Services counselor now reports directly to APD’s chief
- APD established a cold case unit
- APD increased staffing in its sex crimes unit
- APD streamlined communication between the department and survivors
- The Victim Services Crisis Response Team is requested to respond to sex crime calls when officers do
- APD will now offer the option for a third party and/or APD Victims Services counselor to sit in on interviews involving survivors
- Established a soft interview room for survivors
- Expanded training for sexual assault investigations
“I feel horrible for the survivors of sexual assault,” APD Chief Joseph Chacon said in January. “As a department, we really needed to grow, we really needed to get better.”
On Monday, Ecklund added several outstanding elements that remain to be implemented, as part of the settlement agreement. These include a sexual assault public information campaign, establishing a survivors’ survey to gather input on investigation procedings, a sit-down conversation between Chacon and survivors named as plaintiffs as well as an apology process.