AUSTIN, Texas — City officials and community activists held a virtual press conference April 20 to discuss findings from an independent investigation into allegations of racism and homophobia at the Austin Police Department.
The investigation, led by Lisa Tatum of Tatum Law Partners, was released on April 17. While the 46-page report from the investigation didn't find any policy violations to be punishable by law, it detailed a culture of sexism, racism and homophobia among APD's leadership.
"Through all of these interviews it became clear that issues of race lie just below the surface," the report said. "Reports came to us, from different ranks, races and genders, advising of the fact that the racist and sexist name-calling and use of derogatory terms associated with race and sex persists."
She said there are plans to conduct a follow-up investigation, but it's not clear when it will begin due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Everyone should want the best of the best and giving our officers the workplace they deserve regardless of race, gender or sexuality," Harper-Madison said.
Councilmember Jimmy Flannigan said the report outlines a number of troubling realities, including systemic racism and white supremacy at the very highest level.
"That is damning not only on the department but on the officers who are doing the work of protecting the public," Flannigan said. "[They] are trying to do the right thing, but their executive leadership does not have their back."
Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza said during her six years on council, APD has not cooperated on City efforts to promote inclusivity.
"I have not seen APD step up and become the partners our community needs them to be," she said.
Garza said APD should refrain from hiring new employees until the current leadership addresses these issues outlined in the report and makes necessary changes.
"I am confident seeing this report, consistently hearing from constituents, that now is not the best time to be bringing new employees into the APD," Garza said. "I hope this investigation brings the pressure to address these issues and there need to be systematic changes made."
Chris Harris, a member of the Public Safety Commission, said the report detailing a decade of scandals at APD was not surprising.
"For many in our community, we didn’t need a report to tell us that there are issues of racism, sexism and homophobia," Harris said. "These are important changes that need to be made."
On April 20, APD Chief Brian Manley sent KVUE the following statement regarding the report:
"The Austin Police Department remains committed to working within our department, as well as within the community, to address the issues brought forward in the Tatum Law Independent Investigation in a collaborative and solution-based approach. It is important that we maintain the trust we have within the community and department and build trust in those areas where it is lacking. We will make all necessary changes to ensure our employees have a work environment and culture that promotes equity, fairness and frees them from concerns of retaliation. The department has put forth significant effort as an agency in the area of unconscious bias, racial and cultural sensitivity training, and we see the report as an opportunity to implement additional measures to ensure we are solidly on the path to improving as a department."
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