APD interim chief looking to rebuild trust after last year's protests

It has been one year since thousands of protesters took to the streets of Austin to demand change within the Austin Police Department following the death of George Floyd

Those protests lasted for two months and led to an increased strain in trust between APD and the public.

"It was over 60 days. We had over two months of protests sustained every single night," said Joseph Chacon, Interim Austin Police Chief.

Chief Chacon says he had never seen anything like what happened last year in his 30 years of police experience.

"I think that it was equally tough for our community to see what was happening and that's why they were out there [protesting]. As it was for our officers to, you know, have to kind of deal with the protests," said Chief Chacon.

While many of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations were peaceful, some escalated and led officers to use non-lethal force on several occasions. APD has been criticized for how it handled those situations.


As a result, 19 protesters were treated at Dell Seton for severe injuries caused by bean bag and rubber rounds. City leaders took action by voting in favor of defunding APD and banning certain non-lethal tools from being used against protesters.

Chief Chacon was not the chief at the time of the protests but says he has been working on bettering the department to gain trust back with the public. 

"I'll just tell you, I'm probably one of the first people that will tell you that I think changes would be a good thing, in many respects, to the way that policing has been done in this country," he said. "We've been trying to make those changes."


He says the department has made it a priority to reengage with all parts of the community to figure out what APD can do better. Also, the newest cadet class has a revamped training academy aimed at how to best serve the community. 

"We have a responsibility to continue to deliver public safety, and so we take that responsibility very seriously and I'm going to make sure that we continue to do that," he said.

Chief Chacon says it is a work in progress, but he hopes the public can see the work APD has put in to better itself for the community. "I think that that trust is still there, it has been strained, And it's our responsibility, I think, to build that back up."