AJC's Policy Agendas
Austin Justice Coalition has been involved in police (and other) reform in Austin since 2016. It has made significant inroads into working with city council members, Austin PD, the DA's office, Office of the Police Monitor, and other organizations that push for reform alongside us. We focus on policy that impacts the Black community to address racial profiling, arrest and jail for non jail-able offenses, police use of force, police training, and more. Our policy teams aim to initiate a policing model that ends the criminalization of black and other marginalized bodies by intensifying community engagement in reform.
Local Police/ Criminal Justice Reform Goals
Use of Force Policy
We believe both Austin Police Officer's and the community are safer when we have policy in place that prefers deescalation over any amount of force. We believe that deescalation should be the first priority of any officer to assure mutual safety for all parties.
In working with the Austin Police Department, we have drafted a up to date Use of Force policy that clearly define how and when use of force, if needed, should be applied after deescalation tactics have been completely exhausted. We are currently still works with Austin Police Department to solidify a policy that is beneficial to all parties.
Developing a Community Policing Model
We believe Austin is safest when citizens and law enforcement officials work together. By developing a comprehensive community policing model at both the city and state levels, we will increase trust and transparency between Austinites and the men and women in uniform.
CITIZEN'S REVIEW PANEL (CRP)
The CRP serves as a link between APD and the community regarding police issues. All members are to maintain the strictest confidentiality and knowledge of investigations. Each panel member serves for two years and must complete required training set up by the Austin Police Department (APD) and IA. Panel members are appointed by the City Manager with input from the City Council. Panel members are required to also attend monthly meetings to review complaints and make recommendations. As a fundamental standard, all panel members must become educated in police policies and procedures and become aware of the needs and interests of the community and police officers.
Currently, Austin's CRP only meets the first Monday of each month, and when it does, it does not review all internal affairs complaints. We believe we can save tax-payer dollars by strengthening the oversight of the CRB to include all complaints (anonymous) and shortening the term limits members serve.
Furthermore, we believe that it is imperative for the CRP to have more power to effectively serve their purpose. As stated in the Office of the Police Monitor Annual Report - 2008 (PAGE 44), the CRP currently does not have the power to issue subpoenas contact/or interview witnesses, gather evidence, or require that an officer appear or show evidence to the panel. As of now, the Citizen's Review Panel serves as a faux voice for the community members. Without teeth to bite, the CRP is ultimately left with only the ability to bark and hope that they may be heard.
Body Cam Ordinance
Although there are bills in both the House and Senate during this Texas Legislature regarding body cameras for law enforcement officers, the fight must not stop there. We want to work with Mayor Steve Adler and the Austin City Council to ensure that regardless of what happens at the Capitol of the next few months that the City of Austin will still be proactive in combating police brutality by implementing a body camera ordinance.
With regard to the cameras, we want to make sure of the following:
The camera to be bought for use by APD/TCSO has a fail safe data retention tool that eliminates the possibility of footage being erased/edited.
Footage automatically uploads via wifi upon return to base.
With regard to the policy, we want to make sure of the following:
The incidents where police must turn on the body cameras must be clearly defined in the policy and have progressive consequences for failure to adhere.
Footage must be held for a defined amount of time in case complaints are made weeks after an incident.
Footage must be available to Citizen's Review Panel members.
Move Mental Health First-Response Out of APD
We want to help ensure that people who call 911 in mental health crisis are met by mental health professionals, because when the first response is a law enforcement response, too often someone is injured and the next step is either jail or death. Train 911 operators to transfer mental crisis calls to mental health professionals.
The issue here is less about resistance from APD and more so about the availability of non-jail based mental health assistance/services. The 2017 legislature passed many opportunities to fund mental health assistance at the local level and AJC will work to incorporate these services to divert individuals with mental health issues from jail. We will work to get these policy recommendations to pass through city council and APD in tandem, as it will require the city to contract the service providers to service the people the police bring them.
We believe it is imperative to make mental health and 911 reform a part of all community discussions.
Reform Police Pursuit Policies
We intend to collect and report data on unnecessary injuries and deaths when police officers chase individuals suspected of committing crimes.
We will continue to have a healthy debate and negotiate a chase policy that involves a much higher standard of criminal evidence and a better definition of policing standards when it comes to pursuits.
AJC's Legislative (Statewide) Policy Advocacy
AJC's 2019 Legislative
Over the upcoming legislative session, Austin Justice Coalition and our allies will advocate for the following changes to Texas' public safety systems and beyond.
AJC's 2017 Legislative
Over the past legislative session, Austin Justice Coalition advocated for the following changes to Texas' public safety systems.