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City to give group auditing APD training materials more time

Wednesday, June 24, 2020 by Nina Hernandez

The next Austin Police Department cadet class is on hold indefinitely, City Manager Spencer Cronk reiterated Thursday during the Public Safety Committee meeting. The department will not proceed with the new cadet class, which it had hoped to begin in July, until an audit of APD’s training procedures can be completed.

“We are delaying the start of that cadet class until we can make sure that the curriculum is up to the standards for our officers in the future,” Cronk said.

The audit was ordered in a resolution City Council passed in December as part of an effort to address systemic racism within APD.

Angelica Erazo and Nakia Winfield of the Community Advisory Team tasked with reviewing the department’s training materials testified that the group needed more time to process the videos. They also requested increased accessibility to the files as well as a legal expert to advise the group on legalese in the videos that might be outdated or incorrect.

“There’s a lot of conversation to have around these videos and a lot of context that we’re missing,” Winfield said.

The group has watched approximately eight out of 30 videos, and Winfield says the videos they have watched have lacked proper context. She has already seen patterns that are concerning. The videos are racialized in many instances, de-escalation isn’t a priority and some legal explanations are incorrect or dated.

“In some of the videos where they’re talking about the legalese, they seem to be focusing on the rights of the police officer and not at all the rights of civilians,” Winfield said. “So it’s kind of positioned in such a way to figure out how you can cover your butt when you get to court.”

Erazo said she agreed with Winfield’s testimony, and added that she would like all the videos to be submitted to a drive where the group could view them multiple times in order to “identify patterns.” She also said the group could use a criminal attorney to fact-check legal content.

The timing is critical: APD would like to hire new officers as soon as possible, and would like to get this audit completed as soon as possible. The Community Advisory Team wants more time. Council wants the process done well, not quickly.

Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza told the Monitor that she has a hard time seeing a cadet class taking place before September. In May, shortly after receiving a memo from the department announcing the next cadet class would be taking place in July, the Community Advisory Team told her office it couldn’t possibly complete the task in the time frame.

“We were glad to see the memo from the city manager stating that they would delay it,” she said. “I don’t know how we could have another cadet class before September. It was alarming what (the Community Advisory Team) saw. It reaffirms what many of us thought, which was we need to revamp our training and our training materials if we are going to reimagine our public safety response and the role of police officers.”

Committee Chair Jimmy Flannigan warned that fixing the training materials will not completely solve the problem.

“We ask too much from these officers,” he said. “We ask them to do too many things. Inevitably, there are going to be issues. It’s not that there’s some magical reality where you’re perfect, but when you’re talking about a department that carries lethal weapons – you’ve got to get a lot closer to perfect.”

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