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.