Austin's interim police chief lays out goals for department's future

Tuesday, people in Austin got the chance to hear from new interim police chief Joseph Chacon on a range of controversial topics affecting the community. 

Thursday, Chacon was unanimously confirmed by the City Council to take the leadership role until the city manager chooses a permanent chief. 

After more than 20 years serving in the Austin Police Department, Chacon takes the reins, following former chief Brian Manley's retirement. Though it's not entirely clear how long he will remain in that role, Chacon's already working on implementing several changes laid out by city leaders. 

"I think that local departments and, really, local municipalities need to have control of their own police department," Chacon said.

The new interim police chief has been leading the department in efforts to end homelessness and rework how officers interact with those having a mental health crisis. He is meeting with the city and activist groups to build trust and work towards the goal of reimagining public safety. 


"We have to have trust from the community and the police officers that patrol locally, and that trust is built by the daily interactions that happen over time," said Chacon.  

When it comes to restarting cadet classes, Chacon said the department is transforming the police academy to focus on diversity and root out institutional racism. The department needs to train new officers soon, as retirements and resignations have left patrol ranks short.

"It is so critical that we have patrol that is staffed appropriately, so that we are ensuring the safety of the community and, importantly, I am ensuring the safety of the officers, that they have enough officers out there to back one another up as they go to work on sometimes very dangerous calls," Chacon said. 

That means specialized divisions may face additional cuts in order to make sure there are enough patrol officers available to respond to 9-1-1 calls, but Chacon said with violent crime on the rise, there's one area he's looking to beef up. 

"We are going to be looking very actively to target those people that are committing violent crimes," said Chacon. 


Once new cadets are ready to join the ranks, Chacon said he will consider moving officers back into specialized divisions. Although, he's still not giving a definitive answer about whether he will seek to remain Austin's police chief permanently. 

"It is something that I am considering and I have not made any decisions about," Chacon said.