District attorney making shift in police shooting oversight

Travis Co. D.A. making shift in police shooting oversight

AUSTIN - Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore will announce changes to how county prosecutors investigate police shootings, the KVUE Defenders and Austin American-Statesman have learned.

Under the changes that will be announced later Wednesday, prosecutors will only take a case to a grand jury if they think an officer’s shooting was criminal or if facts are in dispute. In the past, prosecutors have taken every police shooting case to a grand jury. Prosecutors will also make recommendations to grand juries about whether a shooting was a crime. Previously, prosecutors have viewed grand juries as an independent body and offered no opinion about what they should do.

Moore told KVUE and Austin American-Statesman reporter Tony Plohetski that this is an issue that came up time and time again on the campaign trail in 2016. She said voters told her they wanted a different, more transparent process, and one with accountability that holds the district attorney’s office responsible.

Moore has been meeting with community members, including civil rights groups, the Austin police union and other elected leaders, to discuss her plans and get feedback.

Travis County grand juries rarely indict an officer for a shooting. The last time was in 2013, when then-Detective Charles Kleinert was indicted on a manslaughter charge in the case of Larry Jackson. A federal judge later dismissed the case, but it remains on appeal.

Moore told Plohetski she does not know how the new strategy could impact the results of investigations.

“I can’t guarantee the outcomes of cases," she said. "But I can guarantee the process.”

This is a developing story, and will be updated with more information.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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