Chief Art Acevedo: Five years as Austin's top cop



Posted on July 9, 2012 at 5:57 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 10 at 6:04 PM

AUSTIN -- Police Chief Art Acevedo celebrates his five years as chief this month.

In an exclusive interview with KVUE, the chief talks about his health, his biggest challenge and the day officer Jaime Pardon was murdered.

If there's one thing the Austin Police Chief is not, it's boring. The charismatic California native doesn't mind cutting up, but the issues he deals with are deadly serious.

On Thursday, July 19, 2007, Art Acevedo was sworn in as Austin's top cop.

"I really felt it was me they were describing. Now five years later I think everything I promised and everything I thought has been delivered," he said. "I said I was gonna be the most visible person in this city, in terms of policing and I think I've kept that promise."

It's not easy being in charge of protecting more than 820,000 people.

"I think my biggest challenge is getting people to understand that this is a huge city. It's not a sleepy college town. At some point people need to understand we can't afford to 'Keep It Weird' anymore when it comes to public safety," he said.

But the job hasn't come without criticism.

"The critics are few but they're loud," the chief says.

In the past five years, the Austin Police Department has dealt with racial tension after several controversial police shootings involving minorities. And that's not all. The department received a lot of criticism after a police officer shot and killed a threatening dog in April, and in June after a police chase ended with the death of an innocent driver.

"The day that some of the things that pass for really big news in Austin, no longer pass for big news. That means we actually do have some really huge problems," Chief Acevedo said.

The real shock wave that rattled everyone's sense of calm was when Senior Officer Jaime Padron was gunned down in the line of duty.

"That was his opportunity through his ultimate sacrifice for this city to show the men and women of our department just  how much they truly are loved and appreciated and admired. I'll never forget going down that freeway, down 35, when we actually had to move the motorcade to the left because so many Austinites came out: black, white, rich poor," the chief said. "That is true Austin."

Officer Padron died on Good Friday, April 6. Ten days later Chief Acevedo went to the hospital with chest pains.

"My health is good. I had a health scare. Where when we were going through a real challenging time I hadn't slept for a few weeks, and my body just started mimicking a heart attack," Acevedo said. "It was my body's way of saying, hey Art, you need to rest.

"It made me really sad because above all else, the thing I love in life is to be a father. It really bothered me at the time because the one thing I want to know the day I die is I want to know, regardless of my successes or failures, as a police chief or a police officer, I care most about my success as a father."

His love of children led him to start several programs to help kids in low-income, high-crime areas. Chief Acevedo also created the Real-Time Crime Center, a 24/7 operation with cameras positioned across Austin. He says Austin has become safer in the last two years, and now wants to expand the department. He hopes to get more helicopters and build new headquarters.

KVUE also asked him how long he plans to stay.

"Nothing lasts forever. I love it here but quite frankly, I get calls on a regular basis from cities who are looking for chiefs," he says. "You always have to keep your options open. With that said, I am absolutely in love with this city, especially the men and women of the Austin Police Department. My family loves this city. We don't have any plans for moving, but we're always keeping our options open."

The California native says he sees himself retiring in Austin or somewhere else in Texas. But he isn't done fulfilling his dreams.

And when someone walks into his office, he has a cure for nearly everything, even whining.

"You gotta have your personalized bottle. I go, come on, take a sip," he says.

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