Travis County Sheriff's Office talks about 2016 racial profiling report

The Travis County Sheriff's Office released their 2016 racial profiling statistics during a town hall meeting Saturday.

The Austin NAACP said reports by the sheriff's office have been encouraging for communities of color.

The Travis County Sheriff's Office has been working to recruit deputies that represent the population they serve.

“I think they're one of the best agencies in the country. The record shows that and they’re very pleasant to work with, they're very professional, so I think they set the standard. There's no doubt about that,” said Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder who set up Saturday’s town hall meeting. 



Racial profiling reports have been required by state and federal statute for the last six years.

The sheriff's office’s 2016 report shows deputies made more than 38,000 contacts. Of those people stopped, 57 percent were Caucasian, 27 percent were Hispanic and 10 percent were African American. That almost mirrors the county population.

“Not only are they the same as the racial statistics of the unincorporated parts of Travis County, but our employment seems to be matching that as well, and, so I think we're attributing that to the diverse employment that we have and it keeps those numbers very, very close,” said Travis County Sheriff’s Office Captain Craig Smith.  

The Travis County Sheriff's Office and the Austin Police Department regularly hold town hall meetings to release data and get feedback from the community.

“We understand that the community relies on us for a lot of things, but we rely on them just as much,” Smith said. 

“They're going to learn if they listen to what we have to say. We're not here to combat anybody, we're here to make sure people are properly informed, educated to the checks and balances. We all need that and, sure, there's mutual reciprocity,” said Linder.

Since Sheriff Sally Hernandez was sworn into office, she asked her staff to review and update their policies. By building trust with the people in Travis County, officers hear about problems within the community and struggles they have with local law enforcement.

“We're using this as an opportunity to reach out to the community and ask for help, so we're looking for community leaders to help us form and build those policies, SOPs, because, quite frankly, we can't catch everything. And so I want to do everything in my power to make sure we reach out to the right people to help us with those policies,” Smith said. 

Linder said the transparency at TCSO and their willingness to make changes helps the community they serve to build lasting relationships that are beneficial for both law enforcement and the public.

“They have a culture there, from the bottom up, that teaches folks how to talk to people. And I can't say that enough, how you talk to people, engage people, it's going to be critical in the future. So listen, pay attention, yes, you have authority, but don't abuse it and just kind of listen a little better,” said Linder. 

Other topics discussed at Saturday’s  town hall meeting include how officers deal with people who suffer from mental illness and TCSO's use of dashboard and body cameras.

Captain Smith said the sheriff's office is getting ready to purchase body cameras in the near future.