The pathway to a new reimagined academy will consist of three parts:
- Increased community involvement
- Establishing a culture of adult learning
- Transformative change
"I'm proud of the incredible amount of work staff and the community have done to put us on the path to a reimagined police cadet academy," said City Manager Spencer Cronk in a release. "This blueprint is the first step of a collaborative and iterative process of transforming the academy and creating a core focus on community input, emphasizing servant leadership, and curriculum and teaching methods that infuse diversity, equity, and inclusion."
The blueprint meets the following objectives:
- Addresses concerns about academy curriculum, training techniques, and learning objectives identified by Council and the community in the past
- Incorporates recommendations from both Kroll Associates, Inc. and the APD internal reviews of the academy under Council Resolution 20191205-066
- Acknowledges and incorporates input from the Community Video Review Panel, the City-Community Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) Task Force, and other community members, as well as from the Equity Office and the Office of Police Oversight
- Serves as a launching point for real reforms to academy learning objectives, curriculum, and training that align with the public safety expectations of the Council and our community
- Addresses the City’s need to maintain adequate staffing within APD to provide for the public's safety and welfare
Cronk emphasized that there are several criteria in three key areas that must be put in place to move forward including:
The police academy should involve the community in the development of officers that will protect and serve them. Specific community involvement will include:
- Participation on the Academy Curriculum Review Committee
- Co-creation of a pilot pre-academy community connect workshop and programming
- Co-facilitation with community subject matter experts of courses
- Formalization of the video review process with community participation
A Culture of Adult Learning
The academy's teaching methodology must include an emphasis on:
- Adult learning strategies, such as the use of scenario-based training tools and realignment of course schedule to ensure that cadets are given the proper space to retain and process course content. Two additional civilian staff and a training division manager have been added to APD that will facilitate this improved culture of adult learning, support, and innovation.
- All course materials will be reviewed to ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are prioritized and aligned with our values
- Academy faculty will be retrained in various teaching methods and given opportunities for expanded professional development that will replace the prior paramilitary approach of the training academy
- Formalization of academy faculty evaluation/review process, including the Academy Curriculum Review Committee
The leadership expectation is that with the implementation of these recommendations, the academy will have a new focus on servant leadership, increased community input and participation, updated curriculum and teaching methods that infuse diversity, equity and inclusion lens, and oversight by an independent evaluator to ensure the changes have been implemented and are achieving desired outcomes.
Cronk says that continued community engagement and public input are crucial to the ongoing success of the academy. The public can share their input and recommendations on the RPS feedback portal on SpeakUp Austin! in English and Spanish.
The city says that resuming the academy on June 7 is contingent upon the completion of all steps in the City Manager's Blueprint along with additional progress reporting, community input, independent evaluation, and budget criteria for the 144th and future cadet classes. City staff will report back to Council periodically including updates from the independent evaluator.
"Through this process, I believe we'll emerge with an academy that reflects our community values and serves as a model for the rest of the nation," said Cronk.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler gave his support for the blueprint, saying in a statement:
"Austin needs a new cadet class, and we also need that class to accomplish the goals that meet the community’s objectives. I believe we can be at that place for a June 7 cadet class by following the city manager’s blueprint.
"Last summer, Austin City Council made a commitment to the community to conduct an in-depth review of our police academy. The professional and task force review of training materials has validated the need for reform and corrective actions to better prepare cadets for their roles as guardians of public safety for all members of our community. The next step in our review process will be to reform how those materials are taught. The city manager has laid out a timeline that accomplishes this with a June 7 start date.
"I am hoping the upcoming cadet class will be cultural change-makers for our community."
For more information on the Reimagining Public Safety initiative, click here.