Austin City Council approved a contract of up to $1.3 million with Kroll Associates, a New York-based consulting firm that has been hired to investigate the Austin Police Department.
Council directed the city manager to hire an independent investigator to evaluate APD last December. The contractor selection process took nearly a year, during which time police violence became even more of a pressing issue in Austin.
Now, with this contract in effect, Kroll will be tasked with investigating APD's training, recruitment and promotion practices; use of force incident reports; and interactions with the public, including searches, arrests and citations.
The audit was prompted by an anonymous complaint filed with the city's Office of Police Oversight, which accused an assistant police chief of using racist epithets and derogatory terms when referring to Black elected officials and colleagues.
Council also cited other reasons for an investigation, including:
- A third-party investigation that found APD leadership knew of the assistant chief's use of racial slurs and epithets, which had occurred over a period of many years
- Data that Black people continue to be disproportionately arrested by APD for offenses that are eligible for a citation
- A nearly 40% drop-out rate for the department's 140th cadet class, which graduated in May 2019
"Pervasive, systemic racism is not an Austin-exclusive problem," District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison said Dec. 5, 2019. "Everybody's got a little bit of this illness, and it's time for us to apply a massive dose of treatment to our entire country. And so I say, 'Why not start in the capital city in the great state of Texas?'"
Following the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, protests broke out across the country, including in Austin.
When protesters gathered outside the APD's downtown headquarters and shut down I-35 in late May, APD officers used tear gas and so-called "less lethal" bullets, which left a 16-year-old and Texas State student in the hospital with critical head injuries and a pregnant woman injured.
The incidents prompted Austinites to demand the resignation of APD Chief Brian Manley and called on Austin City Council to defund the police department, moving funds toward other services, such as mental health response.
In August, council voted to cut approximately $20 million—or about 5%—of APD's budget and set aside an additional $130 million into two transitional funds, which allowed several of APD's traditional duties to continue while officials work out which ones to move out from under police oversight.
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