To update: Austin City Council unanimously passed all four of the following items after a 12-hour session on June 11th. Point 95 was passed with an amendment that partially expanded the ban on impact ammunition. Read the full amendment here.
After 10 days of protest and an emotional, hour-long meeting last Thursday, Austin City Council unveiled its ambitious agenda to overhaul the Austin Police Department. The resolutions include items that would stop APD’s use of chokeholds, eliminate tear gas and ammunition during protests, and stop the use of lethal force in non-life-threatening situations.
During a June 8 press conference, Mayor Steve Adler and Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza were accompanied by Councilors Natasha Harper-Madison, Greg Casar and Jimmy Flannigan to reveal the items voted on during the June 11th City Council meeting becomes.
The following four resolutions are on the agenda:
- Creation of a public safety committee and declaration of an emergency (Point 93) – – This point includes, in part, the creation of a public safety committee to review “the city court, downtown Austin community court, police issues, criminal justice, emergency medical services, fire departments, emergency management, compliance and related matters.” By declaring an emergency this regulation would take effect immediately.
- Change in tenant policy for former detainees (Point 94) – – Change the rules to make it easier for former prisoners – a population that is disproportionately high in color and overrepresented among the homeless – to secure housing.
- Change in the use of lethal and “less lethal” force by Austin police (Item 95) – Avoid using tear gas or impact ammunition during protests. Eliminate the use of lethal force for people fleeing or otherwise not posing an imminent lethal threat; eliminate the chokehold as an APD tactic; reduce as much as possible the use, storage and purchase of military equipment; Eliminate face recognition; and limit no-knock warrants.
- Austin Police Department oversight and budget (Item 96) – Probably the most ambitious and worst solution is aimed at revising the police department and the budget.
“We have the opportunity to set a national trend [and show] This one tiny Colorado slave trading town can overcome its racist history, “Harper-Madison said during the news conference. Harper-Madison, who represents District 1, was welcomed by its councilors and the mayor for guiding the new agenda items.
When asked if the city council would ask city manager Spencer Crock to remove Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, both Garza and Casar referred to item 9 of the Austin City Charter, which prevents the city council from asking the city manager to call on city staff to appoint or dismiss.
Manley’s job has been called into question since the May 29-June 1 protests when APD officials repeatedly fired tear gas and beanbag balls at a crowd of protesters. Two of these bullets hit 20-year-old Justin Howell and 16-year-old Levi Ayala, both of whom had sustained serious injuries.
However, the charter did not prevent the majority of city council members from announcing their positions during that June 5th emotional meeting. Pro Tem Garza spoke to the podium last Thursday and the police chief was shocked about their “trust in the police leadership”. “And at a particularly tense moment, Harper-Madison beat up the chief for being the only participant to turn off his video while the councilors approached him.
Nor did it prevent them from including the following statement in resolution 96: “The elected members of the city council have no confidence that the current leadership of the Austin Police Department intends to implement the political and cultural changes necessary to offset the disproportionate impact end from police brutality to black Americans, Latin Americans, other non-white ethnic communities and returning and low-income residents, “the resolution reads.
The city council will meet again on June 11 to discuss these and dozen other issues, the results of which are likely to resonate nationwide. As for Cronk’s decision on the police chief’s future, it remains to be seen.