Austin to launch investigation into police department racism

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Austin police department

The Austin City Council announced it will launch an in-depth investigation into racism and discrimination in the Austin Police Department in the wake of the assistant chief’s resignation after reports surfaced that he regularly used the n-word, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The resolution passed by the council calls for City Manager Spencer Cronk to examine communication by officers on personal social media accounts and city-owned cell phones for the past five years, lawsuits filed against the police in the past 10 years, and all recorded interactions with citizens between June and November this year. The council vote also calls for an audit of police training to be completed by next June, a move that will likely delay the next police cadet class, the newspaper reported.

A preliminary report from Cronk is due next December, and he is tasked with turning in a final – and public – report by December 2021.

Recent allegations that former assistant chief Justin Newsom used racist language to describe subordinate officers, a former council member and President Obama rocked the department. Newsom resigned, but said his action was unrelated to the allegations.

The Statesman reported that more than 50 community members spoke Thursday in favor of the resolution, including three former Austin police cadets who said training policies were not in line with the city’s values. 

The resolution was proposed by Natasha Harper-Madison, the only black member of the council, who said she had experienced a run-in with police in which an officer was aggressive and demeaning toward her.

“There’s nobody in this room … who doesn’t recognize that there are layers to what it is that we’re discussing this evening,” she said at the meeting. “There are nuances. And I don’t mean as simple as good cops and bad cops. I really hate that narrative. It’s so much more complex.”  

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