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Independent consultant updates City on 'reimagined' Austin police cadet class

The report said APD has improved the culture and equity in the academy, making most of the recommended changes.

AUSTIN, Texas — Kroll & Associates, an independent consultant hired to monitor Austin Police Department's (APD) new "reimagined cadet class," will present its findings to City Council on Thursday, Oct. 21. 

The consulting company's report was released on Wednesday and said APD has improved the culture and equity in the academy, making most of the recommended changes. 

The 87-page report says, overall, APD leadership is "setting the right tone" and "have appropriately emphasized that the mission of the Academy is training future APD officers to serve the community and treat everyone with dignity and respect while emphasizing sensitivity to community concerns, cultural competency, critical thinking and adult learning."

According to a survey of the cadets, 91.4% said they believe their instructors have positively emphasized community engagement and community policing.

There were, however, still some constructive criticisms of the police academy.

"The Academy is making positive strides in shifting to a more balanced, resilience-based training model. Overall, however, a military-style culture still prevails at the Academy with an emphasis on disciplinary measures and collective accountability," the report stated.

Fifty-four percent of the cadets surveyed reported that instructors have occasionally ridiculed the concept of a “reimagined police academy” despite 91.4% of them agreeing the staff places a positive emphasis on community engagement and community policing.

Kroll said it cannot realistically expect "a complete culture change" over the first 15 weeks of the new academy, but will continue to monitor those developments over the second half of training.

Kroll said in its report that the APD "successfully implemented" its two-week community engagement program, where cadets were introduced to important groups in the community with diverse viewpoints on social issues and policing. Kroll recommended allowing more time for cadets to interact one-on-one with community members, asking and answering questions. 

This 144th cadet class is the first one to include anti-racism training. Kroll said – based on cadet and staff feedback – that "the workshops were impactful, requiring cadets and staff to ponder tough and sometimes uncomfortable questions, while allowing for honest conversations with each other and participating community members."

In the survey given to cadets, Kroll reported that the two most common criticisms concerned the academy’s COVID-19 policies and the lack of instructional videos. 

"In particular, cadets criticized the lack of accommodations offered to those who have to quarantine due to positive COVID-19 tests or close contacts," the report stated

Read the full report here.

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