Resolution could temporarily halt future cadet classes at Austin PD

On Thursday, Austin City Council will take up a resolution that could shake up some things at the Austin Police Department, if it passes.

“For public safety in this community, for folks to feel comfortable in this community, I think the community needs to know that the Austin City Council is taking their concerns very seriously,” said council member Greg Casar.

These concerns arose after former Assistant Police Chief Justin Newsom was accused of using racist language when speaking about African-Americans. There is now even a lawsuit from Detective Lamarcus Wells.

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“My first thought was 'need to get to the absolute bottom of it',” said Casar, regarding the allegations.

The resolution is supported by Mayor Pro-Tem Delia Garza, Casar, and council member Natasha Harper-Madison. Firstly, it acknowledges the importance of an already-in-place independent investigation.

“The community wants to know not just what one person said, but really are there systemic issues within the police department,” said Casar.

But there is one piece that not all stakeholders can agree on.

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“We need to take a temporary pause on training and adding new cadets,” said Casar.

Natasha Harper-Madison said the upcoming February class will not be affected, but future classes will.

“For all intents and purposes should the resolution we are putting forward on Thursday pass, the only class that would be affected would be a June class that frankly is an abnormal class, it's an additional class," Harper-Madison said. "The intention is not to hold back the police academy. The intention is to set back, and recalibrate our police academy."

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This part of this resolution is not sitting well with Austin police union president Ken Casaday.

“I don’t think it's a good idea. We are taking the actions of one person and punishing the entire department,” he said.

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He does agree on conducting an independent investigation and getting to the bottom of things, but halting cadet recruiting, he feels is not in the best interested of officers and public safety.

“Some of the stuff in the resolution, we totally understand, but this is the big issue when we are 171 officers behind. We guesstimate that this time next year if they do what they want to do, we will have somewhere between 200 and 230 vacancies in the department,” said Casaday.