Austin black community expresses distrust, need for police reform ahead of vote

Theresa Hodges grew up on the eastside. Recent police killings highlighted in Austin and in other places have called her to question her own police department.

“The mistakes they have made is too much aggressiveness, understand what people are going through in their lives and why these actions are coming up,” said Hodges.

She's not alone, several in the community share the same sentiment, like Brian Mays, the owner of Sam's BBQ, who said he also had a rough experience with cops. “They are killing folks, for what? I love police so I respect police but they have to respect us too now,” he said.


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On Thursday, Austin City Council will take up items aimed at reforming the Austin Police Department. Some of the changes include banning chokeholds, bean bags, and other less-lethal force. Another item will look at planning the police budget.

“We need our department. We need our people. We need more police officers. If we have less police we will have more problems,” said Mays.

The president of the local NAACP chapter Nelson Linder has lived in Austin since 1980. “When I first got here you had a consolidated black community, more community policing, as a result, a lot less violence,” he said.

He said reform in the past never stuck. But with this new push to end police brutality, he thinks council's items may make a difference this time. “We can have the policies in the world, but if you don't enforce them across the board, it doesn't matter,” he said.

RELATED: Austin City Council set to vote on variety of police reform items, including defunding APD

There are calls to defund APD. The Austin Justice Coalition is asking to defund by $100 million.

“If we would take a lot of that money from them and put it into every community, it will be better for everyone,” said Hodges.

“It's not about taking away, it's about better management. Once you address poverty, cultural differences, and unemployment issues, that affects the whole environment,” said Linder.


“We don’t use the word defunding, we prefer a more positive term like reallocating, and divesting,” said Rahki Agrawal, chief empowerment officer at Measure Austin.

Regardless of which way the city goes about fixing the system, there remains one common goal, to make sure all are treated fairly and given due process.