APD addresses use of force and contract negotiations morale in town hall meeting

The Austin Police Department is hoping to build a stronger relationship with the community by hosting town hall meetings across the city. One was held Saturday in collaboration with the Travis County Sheriff's Office in Central East Austin.

About two dozen community members and leaders gathered at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex to have their concerns heard. Several who attended had questions surrounding excessive force and referred to Jason Donald's arrest in December.

A viral video of his arrest shows him taken down by three policemen in a narcotics bust.

Assistant Police Chief Frank Dixon said Donald slipped out of his cuffs and that's why they had to use force. The department has since created a de-escalation policy.

"Every situation is going to be fluid every situation is going to dictate on its own merit how you respond to it what we want our officers to do is if they can take an extra minute or two to step back and really look at the situation you're in and how we can make it safer for everybody," Dixon said.

Austin police will also be handing out blue pamphlets following the passing of the Sandra Bland Act that detail what to do during a traffic stop and how to report a complaint.

Chris Harris with Grassroots Leadership said he attended the town hall to take a look at the pamphlets and wasn’t pleased.

"Well we have a lot of problems with the pamphlet because it doesn't explain fully to people what they're rights are specifically it doesn't let people know when they have a police encounter that they have the right to ask if they are being detained an if not they have the right to leave," Harris said.

The pamphlet also references the use of the police monitor a program that is on hold because of APD contract negotiations.

One patrol officer says not having a contract has hit the departments morale.

“Although we are going through a trying time locally with the loss of the contract between the Austin Police Association and the city of Austin our police department and our men and women who serve have not skipped a beat,” said Dixon.

Dixon said his 2018 goals include community engagement and hopes to increase it by having more police presence. He said the recall of the Ford Explorers last year has caused officers to double up on vehicles and wants to move officers to single cars.