AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - Last week we told you a preliminary report by the Texas Department of Public Safety found, out of 95 sexual assault cases, cleared by the Austin Police Department, 29 were mishandled.
This was in 2017, during the months of January November and December.
Thursday afternoon Chief Brian Manley with the Austin Police Department had this message for sexual assault survivors: “I can't say that I understand what a survivor goes through but I know the questioning is difficult I know sitting with investigators and having to talk about a very violent personal attack can be difficult. To the survivors we are committed to you, to seeking justice for you to ensure we are employing the best practices and doing everything we can to improve."
Manley called a press conference to discuss an audit by DPS which was released on January 11th.
He says, "there were 5 reports that DPS identified as having issues with hierarchy, that is how we actually rank the offenses and you're only supposed to under UCR report the highest report."
He adds, "We had done an internal review as well. Our internal review covered 85 cases over a 5-year period and that internal review actually revealed some of the same concerns that the external review done by DPS did however they were not immediately recognized."
21 of those cases weren't even coded correctly. There were 15 that APD did not feel met the definition of rape. Manley says this means they were over-reporting the number of rapes in the community.
Manley says they're making changes in response to this. Like putting together, a team to go through training of the UCR clearance codes. They're now reviewing the audit given to Austin police, by DPS, which should be complete by the end of this week. This is to see if they agree with DPS on how they reviewed each case, or if they don't and have further questions.
Manley adds, “there were some cases where the officer would arrive on scene and make an arrest for the offense but there was a higher charge involved in the case so under the hierarchy rules we should have been under that higher charge."
Manley says the most significant change is a template that's put together under APD's report management system. When a detective goes to clear a case exceptionally, now a template will come up and they'll have to fill it out at the end of the case.
It will ask 4 questions you must have information on.
Like do you know who the offender is?
Where do they reside or can they be found?
Is there enough probable cause to make the arrest?
And, is there a reason why the arrest isn't being made?
Of the 95 cases exceptionally cleared in three months in 2017, 5 of them didn't meet any of the 4 criteria for exceptionally clearing a rape case. APD is also adding an additional supervisor to the sex crimes unit that has already been going through UCR clearance code training.
The review by APD should be complete by the end of the week. Manley says a third party independent reviewer will research how APD has been responding from start to finish.
Mayor Adler released a statement on behalf of the city saying in part: “While we’re glad this audit has been completed, it confirms that we have serious issues and we need to take quick action that corrects the patterns that allowed these cases to be handled improperly. We listen to women, support women, and believe women, and we need to ensure our processes align with those values. “