AUSTIN (KXAN) – It’s been five months since a report came out that detailed improvements the Austin Police Department needed to make with how it handles sexual assault cases.
The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) report was 182 pages evaluating APD’s handling of sexual assaults reported to the department from 2012 to 2020.
It found a variety of issues like interviews with victims, suspects and witnesses were often delayed or not happening at all.
It also said detectives weren’t able to get video evidence or take victims to and from interviews because they didn’t have enough vehicles.
Since the release of PERF’s final report 5 months ago, the effort to address the report findings remains high on APD’s priority list. In December 2022, a meeting was called to discuss the report with the Steering Committee of the Austin/Travis County Sexual Assault Response and Resource Team (A/TC SARRT). APD staff began meeting on a bi-weekly basis starting in January to shape a new collaborative effort with A/TC SARRT leadership, member agencies and subject matter experts. The “Collective Sex Crimes Response Model Project” (CSCRM) emerged from those early conversations to reflect the need for local response partners to help APD shape the outcomes of the report.Austin Police Department
‘It continues to be a priority’
“We’re moving forward on all the measures that came out in the PERF report,” said Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon.
Chacon said he doesn’t have an updated list of improvements that have been made just yet, but that there are some in progress.
One of them is the number of vehicles for the department’s sex crimes unit. A recommendation in the report was to have an assigned vehicle for each detective.
“That was even something that we put into this year’s budget is to get them more vehicles,” Chacon said.
While the request is in, Chacon said they’re running into some issues.
“Even getting vehicles from the vendors that we purchase from – whether that’s Ford or Chevy or whoever. We’re having problems with delivery,” Chacon said.
‘Survivors deserve healing and justice’
Austin City Council member Alison Alter said her office is in charge of overseeing that APD makes these needed changes.
At the moment, Alter said she isn’t satisfied with how fast the process is going.
“I would love for the speed to be quicker in terms of the overall change to our Sexual Assault Response System,” Alter said. “Survivors deserve healing and justice.”
But, she said she understands the department is still in a constructive phase as it combs through the report carefully.
“See what has already been implemented, what needs to be implemented, and they are working to build all of the strategies to move forward productively and constructively,” Alter said.