Police Chief To Critics Of Controversial Arrest: Hey, At Least My Officers Aren't Sexually Assaulting Arrestees
from the nicely-played,-Chief dept
When it takes four officers to apprehend a jaywalker -- a very tiny jaywalker at that -- how do you defend your department's actions? Well, if you're the Austin police department, you try several diversionary tactics ranging from bad to horrendous.
Here's the setup. A Texas woman out jogging boldly crossed the street far from the lawful corners. This attracted the attention of two Austin PD officers who yelled at her to stop. When she failed to submit to their authority (most likely because she would have assumed that [if she even heard it over her earbuds] -- like any other person crossing the street -- shouts of "Austin police! Stop!" were intended for someone doing something much more dangerous/criminal), they stepped up their pursuit, ultimately grabbing her arm and demanding she provide some identification.
She further enraged the jaywalking patrol by a.) pulling her arm out of the cop's grasp and b.) refusing to provide an ID card or drivers license. This turned jaywalking into an arrest for (if you guessed "jaywalking," you're wrong)... "failure to identify."
Is that even a thing? Well, yes it is, but no, not in this case. Here's the part of the statute that applies to the events in question.
(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested the person and requested the information.According to the report, the cops grabbed her arm and demanded ID. She refused. At that point, she wasn't under "lawful arrest." She was being (informally) detained, but not arrested. Police in Texas can't just demand you show them ID. Ex-Cop Law Student breaks it down further.
OK, it is fairly simple. If you are under arrest [and] refuse to provide your name, date of birth, or residence address, you commit a Class C misdemeanor unless you have warrants outstanding, when it is a Class B misdemeanor. If you are either under arrest or lawfully detained, it is an offense to provide a false name, date of birth or address. The later is a Class B or A misdemeanor, dependent on whether you have outstanding warrants.So, now that we know the Austin PD doesn't really know the law its using to charge the jaywalker, let's get to the defensive tactics.
What is not an offense is refusing to provide your name, date of birth, or residence address when you are lawfully detained.
First, from the Austin PD's PR department:
The Daily Texan reached out to the Austin Police Department, where police spokeswoman Lisa Cortinas said police were working on “pedestrian enforcement.” Cortinas maintained that police weren’t targeting jaywalkers specifically, but instead focusing on pedestrian and bike safety overall.Police Chief Art Acevedo backed this up:
Police Chief Art Acevedo says there is a lot more to the story. The officers were working on an initiative to cut down on pedestrian and bicycle violations. This week, they are focusing on jaywalkers.Oh, OK. Officers are now busting jaywalkers because it's the sort of thing the PD has generally overlooked in the past. Now, it's apparently overcorrecting.
Here's a second department spokesperson with more on the APD's "pedestrian enforcement" initiative.
“I don’t think there’s any [jaywalking] initiative going on out there,” a second spokeswoman said.OK. Um... The APD, contrary to statements made by another spokesperson and the Chief himself, is no longer pursuing the jaywalking initiative, if indeed, it ever was. But don't worry, citizens. These courageous cops have managed to capture the head of the city's worst jaywalking gang. No one needs to cross at the corner in fear any more.
But contradictory claims aren't the only trick up the APD's sleeve. Here's Austin PD chief Art Acevedo attempting to tell the outraged public just how ridiculous it is to be making noise about this arrest.
First, he notes how he would have played the hardass card right out of the gate.
"This person absolutely took something that was as simple as "Austin Police – Stop!' and decided to do everything you see on that video," Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo at a press conference this afternoon. "And quite frankly she wasn't charged with resisting. She's lucky I wasn't the arresting officer, because I wouldn't have been as generous."Well, I guess Austin citizens are fortunate you're only running the department rather than slapping additional bogus charges on jaywalkers. But Chief Acevedo has more, because the spoiled citizens of Austin truly have no idea how lucky they are that Austin's finest are patrolling the streets.
"In other cities there's cops who are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas."Hear that, Austinites? YOU COULD BE BEING RAPED BY AUSTIN POLICE OFFICERS BUT YOU'RE NOT, ARE YOU? SHUT. UP.
To be fair (certainly not because he's earned it), Acevedo did apologize for the "you could be being sexually assaulted" comment. But he did so in the most self-serving way possible.
Yesterday's press conference related to the arrest of a jogger by members of the Austin Police Department (APD) was the culmination of an emotional week for the APD, our extended APD family and me personally.Sorry about the rough week there, pal. That's big city policing for you. If you're going to focus on penny ante jaywalking (that somehow requires a 4:1 cops-jaywalker ratio to enforce), then you can't be too surprised at the public's reaction. Citizens like proportionate responses. This wasn't one of them. And when it all gets too "emotional" to deal with rationally and your gut instinct is to tell the public they're lucky the Austin PD isn't sexually assaulting them, then it's going to take much, much more than a small "I had a bad week" apology to dig yourself out of that hole.
During the press conference I attempted to place the arrest into context by bringing attention to the fact that law enforcement deals with many acts of serious misconduct. This includes recent instances in the news of sexual assault by police officers in other cities.
In hindsight I believe the comparison was a poor analogy, and for this I apologize. I stand committed to transparent leadership and will continue to engage the community we serve in an open, honest, and timely manner.