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Austin lawmakers address racial inequalities in proposed policing changes

Resolutions put forth by members of the Austin City Council on Friday include changes to how APD operates.

AUSTIN, Texas — Members of the Austin City Council on Friday put forth several proposed changes to policing in the city to address racial disparities and reduce police violence.

Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza revised a resolution to be voted on at the council’s June 11 meeting, saying her proposal “works toward institutional change and accountability in Austin, starting with our police department, and using Strategic Direction 2023 as the tool to help us get there.” Strategic Direction 2023 is the City’s guiding vision for the next three years.

Garza is asking the council to adopt measures she said would aim to result in zero racial disparities in traffic stops, arrests and citations from traffic stops, as well as zero use-of-force incidents and zero deaths at the hands of Austin Police Department officers.

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“Racial disparities in policing are unacceptable, and every use of force and every injury or death involving APD officers should be an extraordinary event so far outside what we expect our police to do that must be followed by appropriate action to prevent it from happening again,” she said on Friday. “If the way our police department operates makes it seem like those outcomes are inevitable, then we need our police department to find new ways to operate.”

She said her resolution would also address racial disparity outcomes in other City departments.


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Meanwhile, Councilmember Greg Casar, along with cosponsors Garza, Councilmember Natasha Harper-Madison, Councilmember Jimmy Flannigan and Mayor Steve Adler, outlined a resolution to implement policing reforms in line with the 8 Can’t Wait and Campaign Zero demands.

City lawmakers have proposed ending the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds against people exercising their First Amendment rights. Other proposals include de-escalation tactics, banning shooting at people who are fleeing, banning chokeholds, reducing military equipment use, reducing the use of no-knock warrants and banning enhanced facial recognition surveillance as a policing tactic.

They are also asking APD to delay its July class after hearing from former police cadets about shortcomings at the current academy.

The council will also look at a resolution sponsored by Harper-Madison to create reporting requirements for Austin Police Department General Orders. Another item sponsored by Flannigan would create a Public Safety Committee and declare an emergency. 

The council will discuss these resolutions at its June 11 meeting.


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