Standing before community members and current officers of the Austin Police Department, the three finalists for the Austin police chief role answered questions on how to reimagine public safety and address systemic racism at the first of two community meetings to meet the candidates on Wednesday evening.
The candidates, Avery Moore, assistant chief of the Dallas Police Department; Emada E. Tingirides, deputy chief of the Los Angeles police department; and Joseph Chacon, interim police chief for APD, were each asked the same three questions by a city moderator, followed by a unique last question.
Here are the key points from the discussion.
Share your professional background and experience, highlighting points that would help you be successful as the next chief of police, as well as tell us why you would like to serve in this position. Highlight examples of your work.
Avery Moore: Moore's 31 years in law enforcement with the city of Dallas show a track record of crime reduction and building community trust, he said. "My steps are ordained by the Lord, and he's ordered me to be here today and to be your next chief," he added.
Emada E. Tingirides: Tinigirides brought de-escalation and empathy to her 26 years "working in communities that are the most underserved, low socioeconomic, and violent communities in the City of Los Angeles," she said. Her experience has "been in exactly what the city is looking for," she said, adding that she knows what racism is, can communicate and make change.
Joseph Chacon: "There's no part of policing I haven't worked in or overseen," said the bilingual El Paso native. A 27-year officer, Chacon said he's already revamped cadet training and appointed the city's first ever Asian American assistant chief of police. "I love this city and the police department," he said.
Austin's Reimagining Public Safety Initiative will be the centerpiece for the next chief's tenure. What are your thoughts on the initiative and what would your approach be?
AM: Moore said he banned chokeholds and no-knock warrants in Dallas. Officers were also trained in properly responding to peaceful protests, he said. "Policing should always strive where you have deficiencies to make a positive. I look forward to (reimagining)… We can't run away from recommendations … It's gonna take an entire team, literally the entire city."
ET: The task force recommended services communities should already have, including reentry services to reduce recidivism after jail time, job training and rent help, said Tingirides. A program she helped create in LA placed dedicated officers in neighborhoods to build trust, ultimately seeing those neighborhoods reduce violent crime by 30% a decade years later.
JC: Chacon said he has been with the taskforce since inception and sees the training academy as the best way to effect change. Austin police training has shifted from a paramilitary academy to one based on an adult learning environment, said Chacon. Cadets now understand why they're getting into the line of work and why they should transition from a warrior mindset to a guardian mindset. Cadets analyze racial and systemic inequities through coursework from day one now, he said. They also learn the history of racism and policing in Austin.
People are taking a critical look at systematic racism in policing. What have you done in the past to address this issue and what will your approach be as Austin's police chief?
AM: "That's a touchy, sensitive topic for me because I've been on both sides," he said. Moore said he became an officer after his uncle was arrested and beaten by police. "We have to be willing to take on topics that may be unpleasant, and racism unfortunately is real," he said.
ET: "Institutional racism means everybody's bad. I don't believe the Austin Police Department is institutionalized with a bunch of police officers that are racist" said Tingirides, adding that she'd create a robust leadership program for officers to advance in their careers.
JC: Officers are taking a "course (that) looks at systems and whole institutions to see where we have unwittingly created bias that makes it tougher for communities of color and communities that have been marginalized. We bring in officers and community members and share stories," said Chacon, saying the interaction leads to greater understanding.
Given a unique question to answer, the applicants took a moment to show how they'd considered some of Austin and America's most pressing policing issues.
Moore was asked how to make sure police reflect the demographic makeup of the community. "If you tell people that you want them and you give them value, they'll come and serve because everybody inherently wants to serve the community they live in." Moore added that he'd be hands-on in recruiting with those principles in mind.
Prompted to discuss her experience with policing and people with mental health issues, Tinigirides talked about officers in L.A. making a point to meet with the concerned family of a child with autism to establish a connection and familiarity before any services were necessary from police. Citing the importance of mental health clinicians, she said she thought they should be able to respond to nonviolent situations first and that clinicians should be available 24/7 to help.
Police funding came up in a question to interim chief Chacon. He was asked whether APD needs more officers, Chacon said the department is "intelligence-led and evidence-based." Thus, his answer would hinge on first carrying out detailed surveys of community demands for excellent policing and the establishment of metrics on how to meet those demands.
The search for a chief comes after the retirement of Brian Manley, chief from 2016 to early 2021, who stepped down after three decades in law enforcement in March. He faced criticism for the way he handled the local protests against police brutality. Assistant chief at the time, Joseph Chacon, was appointed interim police chief in April. Were he to be offered the job of police chief, he would be protected from job dismissal by Texas law since he is an internal hire.
City Manager Spencer Cronk and Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano plan to recommend one police chief before October, with city council making the final approval.
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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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