In a secretly recorded meeting with his top brass, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo used raw, emotional language – including profanity – to describe two recent high-profile use of force cases and what he described as a lack of leadership among some the department’s highest leaders.
Acevedo, who has been chief since 2007, said he also fears that the department has “taken a step back” with the shooting of David Joseph, a naked unarmed teenager, and the violent arrest of teacher Breaion King in a video that surfaced in July.
He said he is disappointed that some of his commanders appear to not support his efforts to move the department forward.
“I have given nine years of my life to the Austin Police Department,” Acevedo told his commanders. “Nine years aren’t going to go down the drain because we have people in this room that don’t want to do the hard lifting, that don’t want to be the bad guys. Sorry, we have to be the bad guys sometimes.”
The KVUE Defenders and Austin American-Statesman recently obtained the audio, which provides a rare insight into Acevedo’s relationship with his command staff and in which he tells the 18 commanders that they should shape up.
“I don’t care about commander morale,” he said. “Some people in this room have my attention, and you’ll soon find out who you are.”
Acevedo expressed dissatisfaction that the case involving King wasn’t brought to his attention sooner, and said Officer Bryan Richter escalated the situation when King appeared to question him and told him to “hurry up” while writing a speeding ticket.
He said he is “sickened that somehow people are still trying to justify Richter.”
Acevedo also discussed his decision to fire Officer Geoffrey Freeman, a naked unarmed teen who Freeman said he shot when the teen charged at him.
“I didn’t lose a minute of sleep. If you can’t handle a kid in broad daylight, naked, and your first instinct is to come out with your gun, and your next instinct is to shoot the kid dead, you don’t need to be a cop,” Acevedo said.
In an interview this week, Acevedo said he is disappointed the person who taped the meeting didn’t talk to him in person; However, he pointed out that his message in private, to his command staff, is the same message he has given the community.
Acevedo also points out, and the tape reflects, that he thinks most commanders are doing their jobs well.