AUSTIN, Texas - Travis County DA, Margaret Moore has released a White Paper detailing the purpose and importance of her Civil Rights Unit (CRU).
The CRU was created by Moore in 2017 when she took office in order to "promote transparency and fairness for cases involving the unlawful use of force by police officers."
“Before the Civil Rights Unit was created, cases involving a complaint against police officers were handled behind closed doors. I created this unit in order to ensure accountability through thorough investigations, maximum transparency, and impeccable fairness,” Moore said.
According to the DA's office, the CRU was developed after months of input from community stakeholders, which they say have made the unit "unique to Travis County."
The CRU is independent within the DA's office and handles only investigations and prosecution of allegations of criminal conduct involving an officer’s injury or harm to a member of the public while they are on duty. The DA's office states that such incidents include an officer's use of deadly force, use on the non-deadly force, death while in custody, or sexual misconduct or assaults.
Travis County's website states that one of the CRU's primary functions is to respond to the scene of an officer-involved shooting, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. District Attorney Margaret Moore personally responds to every officer-involved shooting along with members of the CRU.
Since it's creation in 2017, the CRU has:
- Shared its entire investigative file with surviving family members and/or representatives so that they may be given timely and complete access to the facts and circumstances surrounding an incident, which has provided them more information than they were ever given before.
- Published declination letters when the case is not presented to a grand jury, setting out a thorough description of the facts and the law and explaining why the evidence did not meet the standard of sustaining a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. These letters are accessible to the public on the Travis County District Attorney’s website, which gives the community more information about these cases than ever before.
- Presented cases to special grand juries called by a criminal district court judge specifically to hear officer-involved cases, ensuring a thorough and unbiased examination.
- Made regular reports of its work to Moore’s Civil Rights Advisory Committee, comprising a broad representation of community leaders, who contribute criticism and suggestions to the CRU.
“The work of the CRU, in conjunction with the City of Austin’s Office of Police Oversight, is a critical component of our police oversight process. The unit’s specialized staff of investigators and prosecutors focused on deadly-force and abuse-of-force incidents, along with a special grand jury to review only allegations of criminal conduct by law enforcement personnel, has increased the transparency regarding law enforcement practices and policies and improved the accountability of officers," Ashton Cumberbatch, Jr., a member of the Civil Rights Advisory Committee and former Austin Police Monitor, said in part.