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Austin community reacts to selection of new police chief

Joseph Chacon will fill the role. He has served as Austin Police Department's interim chief for the past six months.

AUSTIN, Texas — After a nationwide search, Austin Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon will permanently fill the shoes of Austin's next police chief. 

Since Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk made the announcement on Thursday, the decision has stirred up mixed reviews among people in the community. 

Chacon has worked in law enforcement for 28 years. He was appointed assistant chief in 2016 and has worked in multiple Austin police units, including homicide, child abuse and sex crimes.  

Community members in support of this selection said Chacon's knowledge and experience in Austin will allow him to better address the public safety issues it is facing.

"He understands the changes. He understands the growth. He understands and knows how law enforcement needs to kind of work with that ebb and flow of the city's growth," said Helena Wright-Jones, a former APD public information officer.

Wright-Jones first met Chacon in 2008 when she began her three-year tenure as one of the department's public information officers. 

She said he was always respectful and showed empathy in the community, both in and out of uniform – skills she believes are essential in mending the community's trust in law enforcement.

"He was always kind, always straightforward with what we needed," Wright-Jones said.

Those who are skeptical of the decision believe Austin needs a fresh perspective.

Chacon was selected over two other finalists, Los Angeles Deputy Chief Emada Tingirides and Dallas Assistant Police Chief Avery Moore.

Matt, an Austin resident of 30 years, wishes one of the other finalists got the opportunity to pursue change in the city.

"[They] would have come in from a different community, maybe with a different perspective," Matt said.

Matt has seen the city grow and change over the decades. Between the rise of violent crimes and public safety concerns stemming from the homelessness crisis, he believes Chacon has not done enough in his time as interim chief to prove he can keep the community safe.

As interim chief over the last six months, Chacon said that he has made a number of changes that demonstrate his effort to make the community safer, including changing the time frame in which departments release police camera video to improve transparency, creating the Violence Intervention Program and helping improve the curriculum for the police academy.

The Austin City Council must still confirm Chacon and is expected to consider his appointment on Sept. 30.

If this happens, Matt hopes Chacon will stand to be a strong leader and tune out the political noise for the sake of public safety.

"Chacon hopefully will start leading and not following the city's agenda and lead his department as the chief should, resulting in a healthier community," Matt said.

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