AUSTIN – Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo defended his department Friday after Texas Civil Rights Project questioned its handling of mental health calls days after a deadly officer-involved shooting.
Relatives of 54-year-old Herbert Babelay called 911 Tuesday after they said he was threatening himself and others.
“The call on Tuesday was not a mental health call. It was a public safety threat call where the absolute safety of our residents was at risk,” Acevedo said to journalists during a news conference.
Babelay was reportedly loading a weapon which Acevedo said he later pointed at officers.
Earlier this week, Jim Harrington with the Texas Civil Rights Project sent the Austin City Council a letter asking them to find the funding for an independent review of APD’s policies regarding mental health crises.
“When you have officers show up in uniform and sirens and using the regular, police, stop and all that kind of stuff, it causes confrontation," Harrington said. "For a city this size, you should have a mental health officer on duty all the time. There is no doubt about it and I can't imagine why you can't get anybody to a scene in half an hour.”
Acevedo said that while he does not blame the department’s shortage of officers for what happened Tuesday he does believe that more cops will make a positive difference.