In Leaked Recording, Austin Police Chief Tears Into Commanders For Fatal Shootings, Use Of Excessive Force

from the burning-his-own-system-to-the-ground dept

If police culture is truly going to change, it needs to start at the bottom. Years of DOJ investigations and consent agreements have done almost nothing to root out the deep-seated problems found in many law enforcement agencies. The change has to come from within each department — a much longer, slower process that requires those leading the reforms to put their careers on the line. They will be opposed by many of their fellow officers and villainized by police unions for any attempts to bring more accountability to policework.

There are probably more law enforcement officials out there with the same mindset as Austin (TX) police chief Art Acevedo. Unfortunately, very little of what they’ve done or said makes its way into the public eye without being strained through several filters. Acevedo’s private comments to Austin PD commanders, however, arrive in the form of a leaked recording.

Acevedo was addressing the criticism he took for firing Geoffrey Freeman after the officer shot and killed a naked, unarmed, mentally-ill 19-year-old as he ran down a residential street. Acevedo addressed many issues during this talk and made it clear the APD isn’t going to keep heading down the same limited-accountability road and end up just another law enforcement agency more known for its misdeeds than its law enforcement efforts. (h/t PINAC)

“I have given nine years of my life to the Austin Police Department,” Acevedo told his commanders. “Nine years aren’t going to go down the drain because we have people in this room that don’t want to do the hard lifting, that don’t want to be the bad guys. Sorry, we have to be the bad guys sometimes.

And the problem ain’t the cops. It’s the leadership.”

Directly addressing the shooting, Acevedo had this to say:

If you can’t handle a kid in broad daylight, naked, and your first instinct is to come out with your gun, and your next instinct is to shoot the kid dead, you don’t need to be a cop. I don’t give a shit how nice you are,” Chief Acevedo told the group.

“The union got all pissed off because I fired Freeman. Some of you might have gotten pissed off. I’m going to tell you right now. If we have another Freeman tomorrow, that is what’s going to happen.”

He also addressed another controversial arrest — one Acevedo only heard about after he started being questioned by media reps about it. “Contempt of cop” arrests will apparently no longer be tolerated.

“I am sickened that somehow people are still trying to justify Richter,” Acevedo said on the recording. “Nobody wearing stripes, or bars or stars should even think about justifying a woman — that the reason that woman got pulled out of that car is because she had the audacity to tell him to hurry up.

“She wasn’t going with the program,” he said. “You know what? Millennials ask questions, so get over it. If you are going to order somebody to do something, you better have a damn good reason if you are going to take them to jail.

That was such an easy stop to de-escalate.

Acevedo followed this up with something his commanders (and officers below them) can’t have been happy to hear: massaging the paperwork to generate an exculpatory narrative is bullshit.

“Who cares what [Officer Richter] wrote?” Acevedo said. “Because I think we have this attitude, of I’ll just cover it in the report and I’ll be good to go … Anybody can do creative writing. Does that make sense to you guys?”

While these comments may have been spurred by recent events, Chief Acevedo is actually in the middle of an ongoing effort to reform his police department. The Austin Statesman points out that eleven internal affairs investigations have been opened on APD commanders in the last two years, leading to six reprimands and “several” resignations.

While resignations are hardly the ideal outcome, they’re a better solution than allowing a poisonous influence to remain in the department. True, this move sidesteps accountability, but the intended outcome is still reached: the removal of a “bad apple,” or at least a “bad apple” enabler.

Chief Acevedo will probably find himself out of a job, though. Complaints against him are already bubbling up from the lower ranks, with some commanders accusing him of refusing to consider their input. This may actually be a feature rather than a bug. Those complaining about his refusal to listen aren’t providing much detail about the content of their input. If much of it was just more of the usual — attempts to lower accountability for themselves and the officers they command — it’s hardly surprising Acevedo isn’t implementing their ideas.

This is the sort of leadership America’s law enforcement agencies need: commanders who are willing to start gathering up the slack given to officers over the years. Unfortunately, this can often lead to damaged or destroyed careers, which is why we see so few officials willing to do what Acevedo is doing. There’s almost nothing to be gained personally from doing so, and an almost infinite amount to lose.

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Comments on “In Leaked Recording, Austin Police Chief Tears Into Commanders For Fatal Shootings, Use Of Excessive Force”

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33 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Credit where it's due

This here would seem to be an excellent example of the mythical ‘Good Cop’.

Hopefully he manages to clean up some of the more blatant rot before he gets pressured to ‘retire’ or ‘look into other job opportunities’, because it sounds like those under him are not happy about his radical idea that police are not in fact special snowflakes that can do whatever they want with impunity.

Socrates says:

Re: Re: Leadership

Marc Ott were livid about Acevedo talking to the Police cadets too. It is a perfect example, and so common that many doubt it can reeled in; and that is a problem too.

And it is spreading. Agent provocateurs in Canada and Europa, arming of the police in Norway, statistic stuffing policing, and assaults by unmasked and masked police. It deteriorates so quickly its scary!

Socrates says:

Re:

I saw the sarcasm tag; but it is more likely that he will be exposed to every dirty police trick imaginable. And the blue code won’t protect him. If he’s wise, he will be his own PINAC; and store frequent verified backups of his phones and computers out of reach of his enemies, to make planting of evidence more difficult. Marc Ott also threatened to fire Austin.

Unless he is to expose something I would guess that he won’t be assassinated. And then as a last resort and in a plausible way. Michael Hastings were scared, his investigations lost, he ended up dead, and it might have been an accident.

discordian_eris says:

Don’t forget that this is the same man who has instructed his officers to persecute the homeless population in Austin. He orders sweeps of the homeless, having them arrested on just about any pretext, before major events in Austin. With Halloween here, it is already under way in downtown Austin. Can’t have the homeless anywhere near the tourists and there precious out of town dollars after all.

While he has done some positive things, the negatives he has brought to Austin make him irredeemable. Ask any homeless person in Austin who they fear the most. Their answer will always be: “The cops”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That’s true everywhere. Having been homeless, I can tell you that we never worry about criminals (we have nothing worth stealing) or gangs (they mostly ignore us, sometimes give us food). We worry about the cops, because they like doing really cruel things like taking our shelter (when we’re out) or raiding us (at 2 AM) or busting us for loitering (because we have nowhere to go) or beating the crap out of us (because who would see or care?) or framing us for possession (because arrests mean statistics mean promotion) or killing us (because they feared for their lives when confronted when an unarmed, tired, weak, malnourished person half their size).

Socrates says:

Re: Re: Pestering the week

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani among others ordered the police to pester homeless people until the problem went away. To some extent this is the final solution to the homeless problem. Pestering the victims, or indeed any week person, is almost revered in the US.

Gangs of school athletes getting really provoked by someone being week “in their face” every day, police getting riled up by people staying homeless, police and SWAT teams going ballistic over citizens being afraid of them when they brandish deadly weapons at them. It is a nationwide domestic problem.

The hundreds of thousands of rape kits the US government doesn’t bother to analyze is another. The “hope” president were a blank.

Jeremy2020 (profile) says:

I live in Austin and can tell you that he is one of the good ones. He’s consistently engaged with the public and doesn’t try to assign culpability to victims.

If you go just north of the city to Williamson county then you get the exact opposite where they frequently pull people for extremely minor infractions or things that aren’t infractions at all. They’ll often run “checkpoints” that aren’t checkpoints where they put 4-5 cop cars at an intersection and just start pulling people over for all sorts of reasons.

It makes Avevedo’s conviction and standing up to do the right thing all the more impressive.

Peaceful Streets Project says:

This is all theater

Acevedo has a long history of abusing people of color and covering for cops who do. This was a strategic leak. The cops in Austin are still abusing people of color every day and the cops who get the most protection are the commanders such as Adickes, Cochran, Dusterhoft, and Gay. Go beyond the favorable media reporting by the cowards at the Statesman and KVUE and talk to people from Austin about this fraud.

Fuzzy Wombat says:

balance it out

Acevedo has had plenty of down notes too, and while it’s important to commend the good deeds of LEOs, it’s also important to balance that against the various other deeds.

http://www.mystatesman.com/news/austin-police-chief-art-acevedo-punished-david-joseph-case/jJeFhtPnQWralVw4sSmjAO/

https://www.change.org/p/lee-leffingwell-fire-chief-art-acevedo

http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-daily-post/austin-police-chief-art-acevedo-had-a-bad-weekend/

Now in all fairness those articles (and the petition!) could be written by people with axes to grind. But the fact remains that without the actions of Acevedo and his officers, there wouldn’t be anything to write about in those cases. Again about the importance of applauding the good points, there has been plenty of press pointing out his achievements as well. (I’ll admit I didn’t look as much for the “praise” articles, as I’m not a huge fan of Acevedo being a former Austin resident)

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2010/04/01/Austin-chief-Art-Acevedo-took-a-3410

Disclaimer: Grains of salt and all that for all links presented.

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