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Council votes to reduce racial disparities in policing

Friday, June 15, 2018 by Katy McElroy

Late last night, City Council voted unanimously to approve two resolutions sponsored by Council Member Greg Casar. The first is related to discretionary arrests for minor, nonviolent offenses. Casar said he was inspired to address the issue after seeing data from the Austin Police Department that showed that discretionary arrests are “heavily skewed by race.” Casar posted the main objectives of his resolution on the City Council Message Board on June 5, which include:

1. Directing the City Manager to take steps to end the use of discretionary arrest for nonviolent misdemeanors in cases where a citation/ticket is feasible and where there is no immediate public safety threat to anyone;

2. Asking the City Manager to provide quarterly reporting to review progress; and

3. Asking the City Manager to craft more recommendations to reduce racial disparities in arrests and to work with community members to do so.

The second resolution focuses on Austin’s immigrant community and aims to ensure that communication between law enforcement, elected officials and the public about immigration enforcement remains fair and transparent and that immigrant residents know their rights. Over 100 people signed up to speak on the items, the majority expressing support for the spirit behind the measures. Austin Police Association President Ken Casady said that while APD supports Casar, they “did not appreciate having the department called a racist organization.” Earlier in the week, some questions were raised about the accuracy of Casar’s interpretation of the APD data, but he reaffirmed on Thursday that he stands by his conclusions. “We have real, undeniable racial disparities in our city,” Casar said. He acknowledged the issue is complicated and won’t be solved easily. “But just because the problem is complex,” he said, “doesn’t mean we cannot face it.” Council members Ellen Troxclair and Delia Garza were not present for the vote.

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