AUSTIN, Texas - Election Day, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley responded to an open letter from four Austin City Council members asking how the department will keep Austinities safe if demonstrations occur.
“Acknowledging the probability of activity involving free speech and free assembly in Austin on and around the November 3, 2020 election, we as members of the Austin City Council’s Public Safety Committee request a written response from your office on what plans are in place to ensure the safety of all those in Austin.” wrote Council Members Mayor Pro Tem, Delia Garza, Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, District 6, Vice Chair, Greg Casar, District 4 and Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, District 1.
Council members accused the department of using tactics that “needlessly harmed peaceful demonstrators and escalated conflict” at protests earlier this year. They named several people who were near or participating in demonstrations when they were seriously injured by less lethal rounds fired by Austin Police officers. They asked Manley “what guarantees the harm caused at these protests by our own department will not happen again.” The letter also inquired about two incidents, one on June 3 and another on October 17 that Austin Police responded to involving extremist groups. The letter implies the police response was inadequate.
Manley’s response Tuesday said he “understands” council's concerns. Details were sparse, as Manley explained he could not disclose the departments plans regarding potential unrest surrounding the elections. He said officers are trained to “manage peaceful protestors with the least amount of physical intervention necessary.”
Manley said the department implemented tactical alert — meaning officers of all ranks are ready to deploy if needed. Manley also told council officers involved in the June 3 and October 17 incidents followed department policy.
Read his full memorandum below:
I received a letter dated October 29, 2020 from the Public Safety Council Committee members and understand the concerns they shared. The purpose of this memo is to respond to the Committee Members' inquiries and share available information about our plans regarding election safety. I intend to address the Committee Members' questions surrounding the May protest incidents separately.
The Austin Police Department (APD) has put together our operational plans to address security during the upcoming election and the days that follow. The department has been diligent in taking the necessary proactive steps to ensure our operational procedures allow for the highest level of safety for all involved. While we are not aware of any planned attempts to disrupt the election process, we stand ready to address them should they occur.
Safety, Resources, and Training
The men and women of APD have worked diligently to make positive, intentional changes that make it a safer Austin for all communities. Over the past several months APD has made improvements in various areas including; policy, procedures, tools, training and tactics. In coordination with our law enforcement partners at the Travis County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Public Safety, we are prepared to keep members of the community safe in the most peaceful and organized manner. To avoid compromising operational security, I cannot offer specifics of the plan. I can share, however, that the plan is comprehensive and emphasizes the importance of protecting those who are exercising their right to vote along with protecting those who are exercising their rights to assemble and free speech, regardless of political affiliation.
The Department has implemented tactical alert which means all officers of all ranks will reportto duty in their field uniform and be ready to deploy out in the community if needed. To that end, officers assigned to protest events have undergone Mobile Field Force refresher training. Additionally, all supervisors assigned to protest events have been provided the necessary training to lead their officers in managing peaceful protestors with the least amount of physical intervention necessary.
APD has closely examined the June 3, 2020 and October 17, 2020 incidents referenced in your letter. Our review shows that the officers involved abided by all applicable policies, did not exhibit selective enforcement, nor did they show favorable treatment of individuals. Officers prepared proper notifications and follow-up documentation to aide in the federal case against one individual.
Ongoing Public Safety Review
The Austin Police Department remains committed to protecting and ensuring the safety of our community. We are also dedicated to full accountability, transparency and working with City Administration and Council to continue building trust and collaborating with our community.
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