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

A San Antonio lawyer has been hired to conduct an independent investigation into recent allegations of racism and misconduct at the Austin Police Department, according to Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk.

Lisa Tatum, founder of LM Tatum, PLLC and former Assistant Criminal District Attorney for Bexar County, has been retained by the city of Austin to conduct an investigation into recent allegations of racism within the executive management of APD and other allegations of misconduct recently made by the Austin Police Association.

“I am pleased that the City is able to retain a professional of Lisa Tatum’s stature and expertise to conduct this important investigation,” Cronk said in a release. “She will have the City’s resources at her disposal, and the full cooperation of my office and the Austin Police Department."

Tatum served as outside counsel for the San Antonio Housing Authority where she did EEOC investigations and is an active member of the Texas State Bar Association where she served as president in 2013-14.

"It is critical that we bring the facts about these allegations to light and promptly address the results as we find them," Cronk said. "Our entire community must have trust and confidence in our Police Department, and I believe this investigation will be an important step in maintaining and strengthening that trust.”

The racism allegations came to light after an anonymous whistleblower filed a complaint with the Office of Police Oversight about former Assistant Police Chief Justin Newsom.

According to the formal complaint passed out at a press conference at City Hall last week, Newsom allegedly used racist slurs to describe his colleague former Assistant Chief Frank Dixon, former U.S. President Barack Obama and former Austin City Council Member Ora Houston.

Newsom sent this statement in response to the complaint:

"I am aware of the anonymous complaint that has been filed against me. Although I don't remember having made the alleged statements, I have used inappropriate language in private conversations with friends.  Racial insensitivity is inexcusable and doesn't reflect my values, the values of our community, or the Austin Police Department.  Despite using poor judgment, I hope my 23-year career as a police officer who treated everyone with dignity and respect will reflect my best intentions to serve this city.  I sincerely apologize to anyone that I may have hurt with my words."

Cronk said in a memo that he had decided to engage an outside party to investigate the claims, a decision the Austin Police Association said they supported.

The APA also asked Cronk to include a request to investigate Police Chief Brian Manley, Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano and the City's law department for how they handle allegations like this.