AUSTIN, Texas - The search for a new police chief in Austin is ramping up and the city wants to get your input in what’s been a challenging time for the department. Starting Monday, the city is holding a series of virtual community meetings. Members of the public will be able to give feedback on who they want to be the city’s next police chief.
The position is being filled on an interim basis by Joseph Chacon, who most recently served as assistant chief. Chief Brian Manley retired in March after three decades with the force. He had served as chief since Art Acevedo left in 2018.
The search for a new chief is being led by City Manager Spencer Cronk. The city is committing to transparency in the three-phase hiring process—which right now is focused on recruiting—with the help of national consulting firm Ralph Andersen & Associates. The firm has helped more than 30 other cities hire police chief and residents will be able to speak directly with consultants at these meetings.
"We have ensured that this recruitment process will have several touchpoints, that not only allow the community the opportunity to provide us feedback but to also give us the understanding of what they look for in the core competencies of a police chief," said Austin Director of Human Resources Joya Hayes.
The hiring process is under increased scrutiny in what has been a challenging couple of years for the Austin Police Department. The department faced criticism for its response to Black Lives Matter protests last summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death. The city has also dealt with some high-profile officer-involved shootings, most recently the January death of Alex Gonzales Jr. in Southeast Austin.
Meanwhile, Austin has seen a spike in violent crime, with Chacon unveiling a new initiative last month to curb gun violence—an effort made more difficult by a shortage of officers. City Council recently approved restarting the Cadet Academy to meet that demand, amid a renewed focus on diversity and rooting out racism in policing.
The new chief will also have to deal with Gov. Greg Abbott’s threats to withhold property tax revenue due to Austin’s decision to reallocate some public safety money to social programs. Then, there is the challenge of homelessness, which will include arresting people living in camps starting in July, following the passage of Proposition B earlier this month. .
"This was a challenging assignment not just for Interim Chief Joe Chacon, but also for our next police chief. I look forward to supporting their efforts and making sure they are continuing to find the balance of keeping our community safe and responding to a broader stakeholder community," said Cronk.
The virtual public forums are as follows:
Monday, May 17 – 12:00 Noon
Monday, May 17 – 6:30 PM
Thursday, May 20 – 9:00 AM
Friday, May 21 – 10:00 AM
Friday, May 21 – 2:00 PM