Austin police conduct internal review into allegations they made lock boxes


by SHELTON GREEN / KVUE News and photojournalist JUSTIN TERRY

Bio | Email | Follow: @SheltonG_KVUE

Posted on September 5, 2012 at 11:06 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 5 at 11:21 PM

AUSTIN -- People walking past Austin Police Headquarters Wednesday afternoon into the early evening may have seen a group of protesters banded together with what looked like a PVC pipe.

Members of Occupy Austin were protesting the department’s use of undercover officers to infiltrate the Occupy Austin movement as well as allegations that those officers may have helped a handful of them get arrested at a Houston protest.

“There was no reason to suspect that any of us were going to plan any violence, that we were going to smash any windows, it's a complete farce, it's a complete waste of taxpayer money,” said David Cortez, an Occupy Austin member.
Last week, Austin police brass confirmed that several of their officers were used in an undercover capacity to infiltrate Occupy Austin citing public safety concerns after several arrests at Austin City Hall.
“It is in fact common police practice to deploy undercover officers in places open to the public when criminal or public safety concerns arise. As a matter of fact, the police department would be remiss not to do so. There is nothing that we believe at this time that indicates that officers acted maliciously or in bad faith,” said Assistant Chief David Carter with APD.
Carter also said that an internal review will hopefully determine if the undercover officers followed protocol. It could also reveal who in the department knew about the making of lock boxes, devices used by protesters to tether them together making them harder to separate.
The seven Austin protesters who were arrested wearing lock boxes said it was an undercover Austin detective who provided the materials used to make them.
“The undercover could simply have told anyone involved that this was potentially a felony charge. He could have de-escalated the tactics. Instead he helped to escalate the tactics knowing full well this would result in the maximum penalty that was possible,” said Ronnie Garza, an Occupy Austin member who was one of seven protesters arrested in Houston.
The trial in Houston is expected to last several weeks.