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Back in session: APD’s newest cadet class is the most diverse ever

The 144th pilot cadet class, shown above, is the most diverse in Austin Police Department history. (Joseph Chacon/Twitter)

The 144th police cadet class kicked off Monday, with 100 members and a reimagined curriculum after Austin City Council raised concerns about the training academy's paramilitary culture and high attrition rates. It's also the most diverse class ever.

"That is what we were striving for," Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon said during a press conference Wednesday. "We were actively recruiting minorities because we need for our department to reflect the community that it serves."

So does this class reflect Austin's population? Here's how it stacks up across race, ethnic and gender lines.

This police cadet class is majority-minority, with 57% identifying as non-white. The city of Austin is also majority-minority, with 48.3% of its population identifying as white (non-Hispanic), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Thirty-eight percent of the cadets are Hispanic, which outpaces the share of Hispanic or Latino residents which is around one-third, and 17% are African American, more than double the share of Black of African-American residents, who make up 7.8% of the city population.

Eighteen percent of the cadets are women. This is a higher share than is typical, said Sergeant Kevin De La Rue, who oversees recruiting, but far short of the overall population. Women make up 49.2% of city residents.

The pilot class will graduate in January, and Chacon is hopeful each member will make it through the end given the department's staffing challenges. "I can't graduate these cadets soon enough," he said.

The training academy has come under fire in recent years for its "fear-based approach to training, discriminatory recruiting practices and attrition rates. After thousands of Austinites marched in protest of police violence last summer, City Manager Spencer Cronk delayed the July 2020 cadet class. Council then voted unanimously in August to cancel funding for three planned cadet classes. With a new curriculum and community oversight measures in place, members approved the pilot class last month.

Council will receive periodic updates on the pilot class and determine whether a second cadet class can proceed early next year. Chacon, who is among the applicants for the department's permanent chief position, is hopeful. "I feel like we are going to have a better police officer that is going to graduate than we've ever had before," he said.

Jodean Dixon, 21, is one of the cadets in this pilot class. (Emma Freer/Austonia)

Jodean Dixon, 21, is among the cadets. Born and raised in Jamaica, she moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, when she was 13. She was drawn to APD because of its community policing programs—such as Operation Blue Santa, which provides toys for children in need, and Coffee with a Cop—and the ongoing reimagine effort. "It shows that there is a future in changing the world's perception of what policing is," she told Austoniia. "We want to make a difference, the new cadet class."


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