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.
Today we welcome our 144th @Austin_Police Academy, which is the most diverse class in APD history. This class will be the shining example of training in line with community expectations. Can't wait to get these eager young men and women out on the streets to serve our citizens! pic.twitter.com/qqCP3O89At
— Joseph Chacon 👮🏻♂️ (@Chief_Chacon) June 7, 2021
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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East Austin restaurant la Barbecue has been robbed a third time in less than three months, according to a post on the restaurant's Instagram.
In the post, the restaurant included photos of what appeared to be a man exiting a minivan from surveillance footage.
"This guy pulled up in a car full of stuff… he ripped our gate open and stole a couple empty kegs," the post said. "The ring system scared him off so he did not venture back into the area. PLEASE EVERYONE ON THE EAST SIDE BE CAREFUL!!! This guy goes back into his car to grab something before he goes in. I am hoping he won’t be back!!"
The robbery comes as many restaurant and food truck owners have been on guard from recent break-ins. East Austin cheesesteak truck R&B's Steak and Fries has also been robbed three times in around three months, according to owner Kris Elliott. Elliot said the truck was last robbed around a month and a half ago.
"When the weather gets cold, it seems like these things start to happen more often," Elliott said. "We're just happy no one got hurt."
Additionally, he said all 5 of the food trucks in their lot have experienced burglaries. The landlord of the space is taking action by investing in alarm and camera systems. "Been very tough dealing with this problem as us small business owners are just trying to survive during the pandemic," Elliott said.
And it's not just in East Austin. North Austin restaurants Eldorado Cafe and Chez Zee Bistro were both broken into and robbed on the weekend of Jan. 8, while over a dozen food truck robberies and break-ins were reported in the latter half of 2021.
Some, like Chez Zee's Deborah Velasco, wonder if the understaffed Austin Police Department's decision to no longer respond to non-emergency calls is part of the problem. Xose Velasco, owner of East Austin's Discada, said owners are keeping their guard up in the wake of the robberies as he was robbed twice within a month of reopening in November 2021.
"We try to keep the lights on," Velasco said. "We're a little bit more careful."
After 12 months, the long-anticipated massive Tesla factory in Southeast Travis County is up and operating and everyone wants a look inside.
Phase 1 of Giga Texas appears to be tied up as production of the Model Y Tesla is underway, the electric car company revealed on Wednesday in its fourth-quarter earnings call. The factory, located on the former Harold Green-turned Tesla Road, sits on more than 2,000 acres of land in southeast Travis County.
Here's a glimpse inside the factory.
Model Ys will be the first Teslas to come out of Giga Texas with an estimated delivery of August. The wait estimate comes after Tesla noted supply chain issues have affected their factories, which have been running below capacity for several quarters. A deep blue metallic like this goes for $1,000 more than a white or silver Model Y, totaling $61,990.
Model Ys began being produced at Giga Texas at the end of 2020. In general assembly at the factory, the Teslas get their major interior components to finish the vehicle.
Workers at Austin's Gigafactory are attaching seats to a structural battery pack. It's been described by some as the biggest difference between Texas-made Model Y's and the current version at the Fremont, California factory. It shouldn't have a major impact on the owner's experience, but Tesla has updated instructions for the jacking procedure, as the lift points are different.
With a sleek, open office setup, workers can take in a view of the factory from their seats. It's a component CEO Elon Musk wanted for what is now the headquarters of Tesla.
On the Austin, Texas public location Snapchat, a photo of inside Giga Texas has appeared. On the left you can see a sneak peek of a Model Y body.pic.twitter.com/N7zliZ5vkL— Sawyer Merritt (@Sawyer Merritt) 1643081462
With Snapchat's maps, anyone can look at everyday activity happening at the factory. To view these geographically-linked stories, click the bottom left "map" icon and search "Tesla Giga Texas." Once you've found it, you can view the Snapchat story of those in and around the facility. While most stories stay up for only 24 hours, Giga Texas is a designated place on Snapchat, allowing users to view a collection of photos and videos from the inside.
Following Model Ys, Texas-made Teslas will include the Cybertruck, Semi and Model 3. But it might be a while before those other models arrive. EV makers have been hit hard by the chip shortage, and it's thought that changing features are contributing to Cybertruck delays as Tesla works to compete in the electric pickup market.
Joe Rogan paid a visit to buddy Elon Musk this week. The two have been seen around town since both moving to Texas. Naturally, Rogan was impressed with the prototype.
If you're dying to get a closer look at this factory, you just might get to. In December, Musk said the factory would have tours available to the community early this year.
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