AUSTIN, Texas - Monday, the Austin Police Department restarted its cadet academy with 100 recruits. It is the department's first cadet class in over a year.
Last summer the Austin City Council delayed the police academy in the midst of nationwide racial justice protests.
Interim Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon says the class is the "most diverse" the department has ever had. "57 percent minority. This is the direction we’ve really wanted to go with our police academy so that we end up having a department that demographically very closely resembles the community that we serve," he said.
Austin City Council gave the department a green light to resume cadet classes last month, accepting City Manager Spencer Cronk’s blueprint for a "reimagined" cadet academy.
"This is one of the areas that we were pretty heavily criticized about having a military-style academy and the way that cadets felt coming out of it. We’ve really revamped that effort. We have changed this more into a resilience-based model that is based on active learning and active learning components and is designed to be able to help our cadets be able to internalize… respect and dignity." said Chacon.
A third-party consulting firm will oversee the training program. Two committees are also set to review every lesson and video before it’s shown.
Kathy Mitchell is part of one of those committees, the academy review panel. She says there are still a lot of unknowns.
"We have done almost nothing," she said. "We have talked about units like ‘Where are the sectors?’ And, ‘how do you use your comms equipment?’ And in those relatively mundane units, we found some things that we wanted them to do differently. The vast majority of the curriculum we have not yet reviewed, and all of the stuff that’s going to be hard. So, ‘when do you de-escalate?’ ‘What constitutes resistance?’ ‘When can you use force and if you use force, what force?’
The cadets will graduate in February. Still, the department will struggle with staffing.
"Since the first of the year … 122 officers have been moved from specialized units back to patrol and more are expected to move August 1 of this year." said Corby Jastrow of the Greater Austin Crime Commission.