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Council approves Manley to head police department

Friday, December 2, 2016 by Jack Craver

City Council voted unanimously Thursday to hire Brian Manley, the chief of staff to outgoing Police Chief Art Acevedo, to be the Austin Police Department’s interim chief.
Manley said he was “honored, proud and humbled” by both Council’s support and the Interim City Manager Elaine Hart’s decision to recommend his appointment.

“I assure you that I will work as hard as possible to keep up the successes that we’ve had as a department,” he said, adding that he would maintain the policies and philosophy that defined Acevedo’s nine-and-a-half-year tenure, particularly the emphasis on community policing.

Hart, in her opening remarks introducing her recommendation of Manley, said that the veteran cop had her “utmost confidence” in his ability to do the job and in his commitment to the values promoted by his predecessor.

Council members were similarly effusive in their praise of Manley.

“I’m so proud of you,” said Council Member Ora Houston. “I think you bring a steady, calm hand to the department.”

Council Member Greg Casar expressed optimism about Manley but asked that the incoming chief comment “for the record” on a number of important issues. Casar, who following the presidential election called for community “resistance” to President-elect Donald Trump’s potential crackdown on undocumented immigrants, wanted reassurances from Manley that the Austin Police Department would continue its practice of not investigating immigration status and not notifying federal immigration enforcement about undocumented immigrants.

Before Manley could answer, Council Member Don Zimmerman, who has sparred with Casar and other Council members in the past over immigration policy, asked for an opinion from the city attorney about the implications of Casar “asking a city employee about their willingness to violate federal law.”

Casar responded that he was not asking for Austin Police to break federal law, only that “we reaffirm our commitment to being local law enforcement and not federal immigration enforcement.”

City Attorney Anne Morgan said she saw no problem with Manley answering the question, and Manley told Casar that the department would continue its policy of “focusing on criminality, not (immigration) status.”

Casar and Council Member Delia Garza also noted that while violent crime is low in Austin compared to other large cities, the violence that does occur mostly takes place in poorer areas of the city.

“Your job is extremely important to us who represent districts where most of the violent crime happens,” said Garza.

Manley said that the department was concerned by an uptick in violent crime this year and that it is examining and responding to the areas of the city in most need of police presence.

Garza also referenced the ongoing tension across the country over police shootings of unarmed black men and the Black Lives Matter movement. The perception that one had to either support cops or the activist movement was unfortunate, she said.

“I believe you can absolutely be both. You can recognize concerns of use of force and also 100 percent support the men and women who protect our city,” she said.

Council Member Sheri Gallo echoed her colleagues’ praise of Manley, saying she was glad the city would remain “in good hands,” and added that the city needed to respond to population growth by “adding more officers and equipment.”

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