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Reporter’s Notebook: At long last, an end

Monday, January 28, 2019 by Austin Monitor

Casar wins!… Friday’s news that the Texas Supreme Court has ended the long-running legal battle over the 2014 District 4 City Council race between since-re-elected Greg Casar and former opponent Laura Pressley broke quickly on Twitter, and came with a straitlaced official statement from Casar about all the voter support he has received and how grateful he is to be able to put the matter behind him. But once the weekend hit, Casar let more of his personality show. First there was his retweet of a news story about the court’s decision, with a barely disguised undertone of “Finally!”

Then there was some mild recycled humor courtesy of a text from an unnamed source.

By Sunday, though, it was back to business with a focus on expected action by Council calling for a new audit of sexual assault cases handled by the Austin Police Department.

Exceptional scrutiny… After the unexpected New Year’s Eve announcement by Police Chief Brian Manley that nearly two-thirds of the sexual assault cases reviewed by the Texas Department of Public Safety from January, November and December of 2017 had been misclassified, there have been questions floating around City Hall as to how this could have occurred. While it’s admirable that Chief Manley requested a third-party audit of the department’s sexual assault cases, City Council apparently viewed that move as just the beginning. On Jan. 25, Council Member Alison Alter’s office released an addendum item to the Jan. 31 Council meeting agenda directing City Manager Spencer Cronk to “undertake a comprehensive (third-party) evaluation of how reported sexual assaults are investigated and processed, including why a number of reported cases do not proceed to prosecution within the criminal justice system.” Her resolution is sponsored by Council members Casar and Ann Kitchen, Mayor Adler, and Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza.

Alter told the Austin Monitor that after the DNA testing debacle and the lawsuit against the city’s handling of sexual assault cases, it was time to change the way these cases were handled. “Now we really need to understand the ‘why’ behind that and I think this very human-centered approach coupled with the data (from the audit) is going to allow us to take the steps forward that we need to in order to create a system that our city expects and deserves in relation to how we address sexual assault,” she said. She noted that she expects the resolution to pass at next week’s Council meeting.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Chad Swiatecki and Jessi Devenyns.

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