Complaint filed against second APD assistant police chief as council moves forward with investigation

A new complaint against a high-ranking Austin police officer has been filed with the Office of Police Oversight. 

The anonymous complaint claims that seven to eight years ago, Assistant Chief Jennifer Stephenson, who at the time was a sergeant, told a Hispanic detective, "Maybe now more of your people (Hispanics) can get a job since college is no longer a requirement." The document said she was referring to the decision by then-Police Chief Art Acevedo to remove the college requirement for recruits. 

RELATED: Austin City Council passes resolution to support investigation into racism allegations at APD

“I'm aware of that anonymous complaint and it has been forwarded to the appropriate channels,” said Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. 

That information was released the same day city council voted to conduct an investigation into alleged systemic racism and discrimination within the Austin Police Department.

RELATED: Resolution could temporarily halt future cadet classes at Austin PD

“We're looking deeper and we're taking this seriously,” said Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza.   

Council said it became clear an in-depth investigation is needed after former Assistant Chief Justin Newsom was accused of using racist language when referring to officers and elected officials. 

RELATED: Austin Police Association addresses recent allegations against former APD assistant chief

“To anyone out there who would continue to spew racist dialect and think that it's okay, I'm letting you know it's not okay,” said Sgt. Chandra Ervin, president of the Texas Peace Officers Association.   

Council said the investigation will evaluate protocols, practices, and behaviors of officers; look into whether biases affected hiring, ranking or treatment of officers of color; and search through officers' and supervisor's social media posts, emails and text messages on city devices within the past five years. That report will be conducted by a vendor with a due date of December 2021. 

RELATED: San Antonio lawyer hired to conduct independent investigation into recent allegations of racism, misconduct at APD

“It is my hope that you leave here tonight feeling inspired by the opportunity we have before us to take a system that's not working and make it right,” said Councilmember Natasha Harper-Madison, District 1. 

Council also voted for an audit of APD's cadet training materials and scenarios. Until that audit is completed and curriculum revised, the June 2020 cadet class will be put on hold. 

RELATED: Austin City Council members condemn alleged racism within Austin Police top brass

“We know we are approaching 170 vacancies at the police department right now and that is a concern for us. However, it's also a concern of the things that are going on at the department and the need to have these reviews, so that we ensure that we maintain the community's confidence,” Manley said. 

Garza said complaints against high-ranking officers have affected her view of APD leadership. 

RELATED: APD officer sues over Newsom allegations; peace officer groups talk Manley 'inaction'

“In some ways, I have lost a lot of faith. I was an early supporter of Chief Manley and I have been incredibly disappointed,” said Garza.  

“I am understanding of the concerns that exist, both within the department and within the community, and I stand ready to serve and to implement whatever comes out of these recommendations,” Manley said. 

In order for the June cadet class to go on as scheduled, recommended changes must be made 30 days before the start of the class. The resolution states cadet classes will resume by September 2020 at the latest.