Council confirms Manley as new police chief
City Council unanimously confirmed Brian Manley as the Austin Police Department’s new chief Thursday. Manley has served in an interim role since former Police Chief Art Acevedo left to head up Houston’s police department in 2016.
Manley thanked those at City Hall for “putting faith” in him and said he appreciated having the opportunity to hear from the community about its concerns.
“It’s not lost on me, also, that this is the first time as a community that we have appointed a police chief from within the department in almost four decades,” he said, “and that, too, adds a sense of responsibility on top of everything else.”
Manley said he was committed to making sure the department is “practicing the best policing for this community to ensure not only safety, but fair and equitable practices.”
Calls for Manley to be named permanent chief began in March after a three-week manhunt for a serial bomber ended when the suspect killed himself. The bombings killed two people and seriously injured four others.
“While many watched the news safely from home, but on edge, the men and women of law enforcement ran to the bombs and explosions,” Council Member Delia Garza wrote on the City Council Message Board before asking her colleagues to promote Manley to permanent chief.
In April, newly minted City Manager Spencer Cronk named Manley the sole finalist in the search for a new chief. The city then hosted two public meetings at which Manley detailed the kind of police department he wants to run and responded to questions from the public.
“We want to be a department that is trusted and respected by all and that collaborates with our community to make Austin the safest city in America,” he said at one of the forums.
Before the vote Thursday, Cronk said he appreciated the discussions he’d had with Council members and the public about policing in Austin.
“As I said last Friday, I think we all recognize that there’s a lot more work to be done to make our police department the agency we want it to be,” he said.
Cronk said he and Manley had agreed on five areas of immediate improvement for the department: safety, community policing and transparency, staffing, training, and equity and inclusion.
Some criminal justice reform advocates said the process denied the public a chance to more thoroughly vet an incoming police chief.
Fatima Mann, co-founder of Austin Justice Coalition, said during testimony Thursday that she respects Manley and the “hard work that he’s done for the Austin Police Department.” But, she said, she is concerned about the process and “the ability to say that he’s the best candidate for the job, because I don’t know. There weren’t other candidates that we could put against him to see.”
Garza said she “respectfully” disagreed that the process was faulty.
“I want to thank the city manager,” she said. “I think this process was thoughtful, was inclusive, was fair, and I believe those same things about Chief Manley.”
Manley was also criticized for how the department reacted to the first bombing, which killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House. At one point, police questioned whether House had been responsible for his own death.
These criticisms ultimately failed to sway Cronk’s decision. While he maintained from the outset that he had the right to open a national search for more candidates, he instead announced earlier this week that Manley would be appointed as the next chief pending Council’s required vote.
This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Avery Miles contributed to this report. Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT.
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Austin Police Department: the law enforcement entity for the City of Austin.