An independent attorney will examine allegations that former Austin Assistant Police Chief Justin Newsom regularly used racist language as he ascended through the ranks of the police department, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk announced the investigation Friday. Newsom is alleged to have used the N-word to describe several African Americans over the past decade, including former assistant police chief Frank Dixon, former city council member Ora Houston, other officers and President Barack Obama when he visited Austin.
Anonymous complaints allege that high-ranking staff at the Austin Police Department, including Police Chief Brian Manley, were aware of the comments and did not take action. Newsom abruptly resigned from the department on Oct. 31.
Cronk said San Antonio-based attorney Lisa Tatum, a former Bexar County assistant criminal district attorney, will conduct the investigation, the newspaper reported.
“It is critical that we bring the facts about these allegations to light and promptly address the results as we find them,” Cronk said. “Our entire community must have trust and confidence in our police department, and I believe this investigation will be an important step in maintaining and strengthening that trust.”
Newsom released a statement saying he admitted to using “inappropriate language in private conversations with friends.”
“Racial insensitivity is inexcusable and doesn’t reflect my values, the values of our community, or the Austin Police Department,” the statement said. “Despite using poor judgment, I hope my 23-year career as a police officer who treated everyone with dignity and respect will reflect my best intentions to serve this city. I sincerely apologize to anyone that I may have hurt with my actions.”
The Statesman reported that documents filed with the Office of Police Oversight allege that Newsom told Manley someone might possess screenshots of text messages that contained racist statements by Newsom. The complaints allege that Manley agreed to keep that a secret as long as the screenshots weren’t revealed in arbitration, “for the good of the department.”