AUSTIN, Texas - Monday, Austin police launched an internal affairs investigation to determine if officers violated department policies in photographs taken in front of City Hall Sunday.
The photographs show officers, demonstrators, political candidates, and members of the “Proud Boys” gathered together for a photo-op. Members of the “Proud Boys” made white power signs in the pictures.
The photographs were taken following two demonstrations organized by several pro-police groups including the Wind Therapy Freedom Riders, a pro-police motorcycle group. The Texas Police Spouses Association participated.
The first demonstration occurred in front of Austin Police Headquarters. The second took place in front of The W where Mayor Steve Adler owns a condominium.
Demonstrators called to “re-fund” Austin police and spoke out against Mayor Adler and his decision to cut funding from the department. The candidates photographed spoke at the demonstrations.
One Proud Boy attended the first demonstration at Austin Police Headquarters. At least two others joined him for the demonstration at The W. The men did not speak at the event. Organizers of the event tell FOX 7 Austin the Proud Boys were not invited.
The Anti-Defamation League describes the group as “misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration,” adding that some members “espouse white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideologies,.”
A memorandum sent to members of City Council from Jessica Kingpetcharat-Bittner, interim director of communications and public information on behalf of City Manager Rey Arrellano said the officers were “working to provide a safe environment for a peaceful protest.” Explaining that “at the end of the event several officers were asked to take a photo with participants which is not an uncommon request from the community.”
“[The Proud Boys] were not invited to participate in the event nor do they reflect the values of the Wind Therapy Freedom Riders,” said Luis Rodriguez, co-founder, and club national president of the Wind Therapy Freedom Riders.
Arrellano said the department is looking into whether the officers in the photographs violated department policies 801.6 and 972.4, which “address endorsements and political activity.”
“APD is committed to fair, impartial, and equitable treatment of all people. We do not justify or condone political activities in uniform. Given the politically charged climate, we will be advising officers to exercise additional caution when engaging with the public to ensure the uniform isn't used – either directly or inadvertently – to imply support or opposition of a particular perspective.” said Arrellano.
Council Member Leslie Pool, District 7 shared the following statement with FOX 7 Austin following the announcement that an internal affairs investigation was being launched:
“I’m relieved to hear from APD that there will be an Internal Affairs investigation into the circumstances that led to seven uniformed police officers posing for a photo with several political campaigns and people who are indicating support for white supremacy. These officers know that posing in uniform for any political campaign without permission is a violation of APD policy; these rules are very clearly stated in several sections of the policy manual. But I am very disturbed by the appearance that any Austin police officers endorse white supremacist ideas. I look forward to the outcome of the investigation, and will
follow it closely.”