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Austin City Council confirms Joe Chacon's appointment as new police chief

The council voted on Chacon's appointment at its meeting on Thursday, 9-2.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin City Council had a jam-packed agenda for its meeting on Thursday, including voting on the Austin Police Department's next chief.

The council confirmed his appointment by a vote of 9-2, with council members Alison Alter and Mackenzie Kelly voting against.

On Sept. 22, KVUE senior reporter Tony Plohetski confirmed that City Manager Spencer Cronk selected Interim Police Chief Joe Chacon as the next head of the police department. Chacon was selected over two other finalists: Los Angeles Deputy Chief Emada Tingirides and Dallas Assistant Police Chief Avery Moore.

Chacon will be the second internal candidate Cronk has promoted, but many in the community have expressed the desire for an outside chief after the departure of the previous chief, Brian Manley in March.

Councilmember Greg Casar outlined a list of topics and questions he intended to ask Chacon during the meeting.

“We all want our families and communities to be safe, and we all want good and reformed policing,” said Casar. “Tonight, we received commitments from Chief Chacon that he would lead on continued reductions to violent crime, reforms to police use-of-force, and improvements to victim services and the handling of sexual assault cases. Together, we will hold him and ourselves accountable to these commitments.”

Mayor Steve Adler also released a statement Thursday night:

Congratulations to Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon. In this selection process, he has reaffirmed his commitment to keeping our city safe and continuing innovation within the department to make a safe city even safer. As interim Chief, he has shepherded in many positive changes as part of the city's reimagining public safety initiative to ensure every community member feels safe, protected, and heard.

Throughout this process, Chief Chacon has advocated for his officers and department, supported data-driven approach to address staffing levels, expressed his opposition to setting arbitrary staffing levels like in Proposition A, and shown his integrity by setting the record straight on misinformation that would question the high level of public safety in Austin.

Council Member Mackenzie Kelly responded with the following statement prior to Thursday's vote:

While I certainly appreciate Interim Chief Chacon’s years of service at APD and respect the selection process, I am disappointed in the city manager’s ultimate decision to appoint him. We had a unique opportunity to bring in a fresh perspective to help address critical issues related to departmental morale, staffing, and community engagement efforts.

The results of an internal survey conducted by the Austin Police Association show a clear mandate from their membership for an external candidate. This, in addition to the ongoing barrage of criticism from select community activists about the current culture at APD, makes it impossible for me to cast my vote in support of an internal candidate. I don’t believe doing so would reflect the shared values of the police and the community.

That said, there is tremendous work to be done given the increasing crime in our city juxtaposed with the ever-decreasing number of officers citizens have to call on for help. I look forward to working with Chief Chacon to tackle these dangerous challenges for the best possible outcome for our entire community.

During a press briefing on Sept. 22, Chacon said he has heard complaints from the community about a lack of communication, trust and collaboration necessary to engender a relationship that he said everyone wants with police.

As interim chief over the last six months, Chacon said that he has made a number of changes that demonstrate that effort. He has changed the department's policy in releasing video, reducing the timeline from 60 days to 10 days, "showing a strong commitment to transparency."

He also said he has started a police cadet academy with a new training paradigm that shifts from military-style training to a learning academy. In addition, he started a program to address gun violence.

Chacon will step into the permanent chief role at a particularly critical time. As the KVUE Defenders highlighted with the Austin American-Statesman in its recent series "Reforming the Force," the city is still struggling to reach a community consensus in what it wants in a modern police force. Last year, Austin City Council members removed about $150 million of the police budget by reallocating numerous programs to create independence.

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