Civilian review panel recommendations for APD to become public



Posted on June 27, 2013 at 6:10 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 27 at 6:26 PM

AUSTIN -- Mayor Lee Leffingwell and City Manager Marc Ott announced the city's new four-year agreement with the Austin Police Department Thursday. The City and police union negotiated an agreement to provide more transparency related to officer-involved shootings and other critical incidents. They also negotiated privacy for officers.

A civilian review panel will weigh in on whether police officers should be punished, and their recommendations will be released to the public.

"You have a city representative, a civilian representative, who is monitoring that investigation from the beginning to the end," said Austin Police Association President Wayne Vincent.

"In Texas I don't know of any other city that is more transparent than we are," said Austin Chief Labor Relations Officer Deven Desai.

Public cries for transparency echoed after controversial police shootings like the death of Byron Carter. A federal jury decided Officer Nathan Wagner did not use too much force when he shot and killed Carter. The civilian review panel disagreed, saying he should be punished. Chief Art Acevedo never handed down any punishment.

In fact, during the civil trial, Chief Acevedo testified the civilian review panel "makes people feel good" but shouldn't carry much weight adding, "The CRP's opinions aren't worth the paper they're written on."

"I don't want people thinking the CRP is some investigating body. There's no expertise here. It's just an opinion. It's a novice opinion," said Chief Acevedo.

Nelson Lender of the NAACP is filing a complaint against the City because leaders did not override Chief Acevedo's decision not to punish Officer Wagner. 

"The city council and the city manager are gonna stick their tails between their legs and not handle this issues. It's the city government. They're the problem. Enforce the law. If they get more information what are they gonna do with it? Nothing! Nothing!" said Lender.

"They cannot order me as it relates to personnel matters. It's against the law," said Acevedo.

"I'm not gonna comment of the chief's comments. I think we're at a good balance right now. We are more transparent than we were under the last contract," said Leffingwell.

"Their opinions I woudn't say aren't worthless. They are worth considering. At the end of the day, there's one chief of police and these are not experts, not practioners in this field," said Vincent.

It's a step toward transparency in a process that used to be secret.

The contract lasts four years. At that time, the City and Austin Police Department can re-negotiate the terms.