AUSTIN, Texas — From racial injustice to homelessness and a global pandemic, Austin is dealing with plenty of unprecedented issues, and there have been a lot of changes to the Austin Police Department, including who is in charge.
Last month, APD Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon was named interim police chief following the announcement of Brian Manley's retirement.
KVUE's Yvonne Nava sat down one-on-one with Chacon for an exclusive interview to discuss how he's forming a relationship with the community, the morale within the department and the changes coming for the department’s next cadet class.
Nothing was off-limits.
Chacon told KVUE the biggest change in his 28 years of policing is that there are cameras everywhere now. He added that the change has provided a needed sense of transparency.
"When I started, you know, having a surveillance camera was a rare occurrence," Chacon said. "We didn't have cameras in vehicles. As a matter of fact, we had just started getting the computers in the cars. And it was just a very different time. And it's been a good change, I think, to really highlight everything that we do."
Chacon said transparency is what helps build public trust.
"And so, you know, the more transparent that we can be, I think it's going to be better in the long run," Chacon told KVUE.
Chacon said the chief of a police department should have a solid grasp on not only the operational parts of policing, but a "good global view of where the police department sits in city government and in the community" and understand that police are not the end-all-be-all of public safety.
"So, you know, right now the City is going through this re-imagination process and looking at how we are delivering public safety services to the community," Chacon said. "So, one of the most important things for me is that putting people in jail should be a last resort."
In efforts to mend the relationship between police and the public, Chacon said he's reached out to City leaders and community members, urging them all to engage in tough dialogs.
"We have an amazing police department with great men and women that do great work every day. When we fall short, we need to highlight that and kind of make sure that we are not trying to always cast ourselves in the best light or anything like that," Chacon said. "If we fall short, we should call it what it is and then look for ways to improve."
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When asked about the increase in officer resignations and retirements, Chacon said police officers have "felt very embattled" with all the calls for police reform over the past year.
"And this is not an Austin-only phenomenon," Chacon said. "We're seeing it in police departments all across the country. The way that I am trying to turn that around, I think, is really around the idea of procedural justice. And what that means for our officers, internally, is that members of leadership are communicating very well with them or explaining the changes that are being made. For instance, within the police department, [they] are giving them an opportunity and really a safe space to be able to say the things that they might have opinions about or where they think that something should be different. When I build that internal procedural justice, that in turn is going to turn into external in the way that our officers deal with members of the public."
Chacon told KVUE he hopes the APD, and policing in general, is able to accomplish the mission and vision of being highly respected by the community, to feel engaged and trusted.
You can watch the full interview in Spanish on KVUE's YouTube page:
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