AUSTIN, Texas - The city of Austin released its community policing audit Tuesday, which says that since 2016, the Austin Police Department has taken steps to improve its community policing efforts, but the results are mixed.
While APD has seen some positive results, the report says more time is needed to determine if the department's efforts have been effective.
Chas Moore, executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition, has been advocating for equality for black and brown people for years.
"It's hard work to become a better person or a better thing or a better version of self and until they recognize that we will always get these kinda like the icing top of the birthday cake reports and outcome from APD but that's a leadership thing," Moore said. "We need leadership where someone says hey let's be as transparent as we can with these folks these communities as we legally possibly can."
A recent situation he says didn't include much transparency at all was the officer-involved shooting of Michael Ramos, an unarmed man in Southeast Austin last month.
The community policing audit details a report released in January 2020 by the Office of Police Oversight which concluded that "people of color in Austin are stopped in their motor vehicles at disproportionately higher rates than their percentage of the population in Austin."
It says "additionally, findings from an independent investigation into anonymous allegations of racist and homophobic comments released in April 2020 did not find policy violations but did note reports of racist and sexist behavior within the department and a fear of retaliation for speaking out. Both of these reports included recommendations for APD to address."
However, APD does not have an established process for interpreting changes in performance measures and using results to improve performance.
Moore adds, "I still believe in my heart in APD because of the amazing advocates and organizations and community could be a shining example of what good policing looks like. Leadership and current culture is lackluster and they're okay with being content."
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In conclusion the auditor notes, "APD's community policing efforts since 2016 appear to have helped establish a foundation to support community policing goals, APD must address these issues and then continue to build on the foundation they have built to produce the change that they and the community want."
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley agreed with the report's suggestions for improvements that are set to be implemented in June 2021 but says APD anticipates that the current health crisis will limit many community policing activities for the foreseeable future.
"It's that mentality that prevents this police department from being what I think it could be," Moore said. "How about we be proactive in doing zoom and virtual meetings with people right now while they're at home?"