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DOJ issues 150 recommendations for changes at APD

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 by Austin Monitor

The U.S. Department of Justice has released the results of a review of the Austin Police Department that was initiated in 2007. The NAACP and Texas Civil Rights Project had filed a complaint with the DOJ against APD in 2004 following several high-profile incidents, and the City Manager and Police Chief formally requested a review on behalf of the City in 2005. The DOJ’s 50-page report contains more than 150 recommendations for changes to APD’s policies and procedures.


Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said on Monday the department had already taken action on about one-fourth of the recommendations. “We did not wait for the DOJ to tell us what to do,” he said. “We initiated our own internal review, we initiated our own internal process improvements.” APD’s focus, he said, had been on the report’s recommendations on APD’s policies on the use of force. He also noted that some of the suggestions, such as those for additional training for officers, could require specific funding.


One of the first suggestions in the report is that department make changes in its reporting policies for those cases in which officers use force. The definitions in APD’s policy, the report says, “leave room for excluding uses of force that officers should report.” The authors also urge the APD to specifically prohibit the use of Tasers against handcuffed suspects “unless the suspect engages in active, violent resistance.”


The DOJ also recommends changes to the procedures followed by the Office of the Police Monitor. The authors encourage the Police Monitor’s staff to attend more community forums and events to make themselves more accessible to those wishing to file a complaint about an officer, and that the city make the Police Monitor’s web site available in both English and Spanish.


While those steps could be taken under the city’s contract with the Austin Police Association, some of the other recommendations may require further negotiation. “The OPM needs access to information from the APD. Our interviews with OPM personnel revealed that the OPM did not have access to incident reports or police reports during the initial stage of the complaint process,” the authors wrote. “We recommend that APD allow the OPM access to police reports and incident reports at the inception of all investigations.”

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