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Local Policing Policy Priorities

Austin Justice Coalition will advocate for the following changes to Austin’s public safety systems.

Priority 1: Modernize APD’s policy manual to reduce unnecessary use of force and make citizens and officers safer. Years of study by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) have resulted in a re-assessment of the “continuum of force” model (the basis for many of APD’s policies). Best practices, already in place in other cities, can successfully reduce injury to the public and injury to officers.

  • Sanctity of all life should clearly guide APD’s use of force. Current policy suggests that officers balance sanctity of life against “all human interests.” This framework fails to guide officers’ use of discretion.

  • Response should be proportionate to situation. Proportionality should takeinto account the nature, severity and dangerousness of the original behavior that lead to the initial contact with officers.

  • De-escalation first! De-escalation should be a stated directive from management in the policy manual. De-escalation policy should address proportionality, using distance and cover, tactical repositioning, “slowing down” situations that do not pose an immediate threat, calling for resources, incapacitation instead of lethal force, etc.

  • APD can and should hold officers to a higher standard than the floor set by Graham v Connor (“objectively reasonable”).

  • Clearly require officers to promptly render first aid and immediately call for medical assistance if a person is or might be injured as a result of police action. Stop classifying certain symptoms as “excited delirium” unless the diagnosis is recognized as a genuine health condition by the AMA, the APA or the DSMMD.

  • Improve force reporting/data. Very significant force incidents like the King takedown are classified as “Level 3” incidents. Austin should revise the classification system and data protocols to improve reporting.

  • Update the disciplinary matrix. Specify reasonable, stepped discipline for failures to de-escalate, failure to apply proportionality, failure to promptly render first aid, and failure of duty to intercede.

  • Update officer training based on revised policies prioritizing de-escalation, concepts of proportionality, and culturally competent communications based on training protocols shown to reduce use of force. Require all officers to train as frequently in these concepts/areas as they train in gun use.

 

 

Priority 2. Public participation in meet-and-confer: The contract with the Austin Police Association creates the framework for officer accountability. The public has a strong interest in that process. Contract revisions should:

  •  Ensure that the Chief can discipline officers even if he first learns about an incident (like the King video) more than 180 days after it occurred. Apply “180” rule from the date the Chief learns of a problem rather than the incident date.

  • Give the Office of Police Monitor prompt and complete access upon request to all evidence related to any arrest, detention or use of force incident including dmav video, body camera video, and witness statements.

  • Change the point system used for promotions to include deductions for misconduct (based on the revised matrix).

  • Eliminate the authority of arbitrators or hearing examiners to overturn suspensions or other discipline if they find the underlying facts to be true.

  • Improve the complaint process: allow people to file complaints by phone or online, allow the Office of Police Monitor to see all evidence (dmav or body cam video, officer reports) before requiring a complainant to file a sworn statement.

Priority 3: Pass a resolution to eliminate arrests for non-jailable traffic offenses and substitute citation for arrest where state law permits:

  • Officers can legally arrest someone for a traffic ticket, even though jail is not a lawful punishment for a traffic violation and no citizen understands why this is even possible. When officers escalate a traffic stop they place themselves and others in danger. Officers can scare the driver, and when the officer then claims a person was resisting suddenly the situation is dangerous for everyone. Austin can simply stop arresting people for traffic ticket offenses.

  • Further, officers currently arrest people for other minor misdemeanor offenses (like possession of small amounts of marijuana) that can, under state law (Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 14.06(c)) be “citation only” offenses. Every time an officer can issue a ticket instead of making an arrest, the interaction will be safer for both parties.

  • Citation instead of arrest should be a department and city policy, not something that is up to individual officers.

Priority 4: Move mental health first response out of APD. People who call 911 in mental health crisis should be 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 jail. Since people in crisis may not behave as expected when issued an officer’s

order, nearly a quarter of “use of force” incidents arise from these calls. 

"Without the people there can be no government. The government must be, therefore, an expression of the will of the people.."
 
 - Marcus Garvery
SAFER POLICING

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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.

DEVELOP COMMUNITY POLICING MODEL