'We need to be hearing your voice': Austin City Council gives Cronk one-week deadline to lay out plans for police reform
Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk has one week to firm up plans for police department reform and lay out for city leaders how he will respond to calls for the ouster of Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, which are mounting in the wake of clashes between police and protesters during anti-brutality demonstrations over the past few weeks.
Cronk, whose position overseeing the city's 13,000 employees makes him responsible for decisions regarding Manley's job, was directed by the Austin City Council on Thursday to update them during the first meeting of the newly formed Council Public Safety Committee next week.
The first meeting of the committee is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 18. Agenda is expected by Monday afternoon.
The timing will give Cronk a chance to "settle his thoughts" on how to implement a package of resolutions, approved unanimously by the council late Thursday, overhauling several aspects of the police department, said Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, who chairs the committee.
Flannigan asked both Cronk and Manley to "make room in your schedules" and "be sure to attend" next week's meeting.
"I have a number of questions that I have for you, Chief, stuff that I've seen going on, stuff that I've seen on social media, that has really caused me to scratch my head a little bit about what's been happening in the department you run," he said. "Rather than drag my brain through it after this long day for all of us, I will save my questions for the committee meeting. Just wanted to give you a heads up."
"Certainly," Manley replied.
The resolutions include a vote of no confidence in "current leadership" at the Austin Police Department, which members said is focused on Manley but could be interpreted to mean any of the department's top brass.
Only Cronk has the authority to decide the fate of Manley, who draws an annual $350,000 salary and has been chief since 2018.
Cronk also oversees the budget process and is the council's liaison on directives to city departments, including the police resolutions.
An hour before the vote on the resolutions, some members—inundated with tens of thousands of calls and emails from constituents—chastised Cronk for not making any announcements on his plans yet.
Much of the change will come through the budget process later this summer, but council members were clear they wanted a progress report soon and, specifically, an update on Manley's future with the department.
Cronk has not indicated publicly which direction he's leaning, and while the council did not specify what would happen if Cronk doesn't satisfy them at next week's meeting, several reminded him that he is responsible for carrying out instructions by the council, which has the authority to fire him.
"Your silence has been deafening to me," Council Member Alison Alter said. "We provide you with direction, but nothing prevents you from taking action ... We need to be hearing your voice, and we need to be hearing that you are leading us forward to this transformation in very concrete ways."
Cronk explained that he has been "in constant communication" with his executive team as well as council members, Manley and other public safety leaders on "short-term" changes to police policy after demonstrators were injured by officers during the protests.
At the same time, Cronk said, he recognized that "a parallel conversation" was going on in the community and at City Hall over long-term changes from the top down at the department.
He noted that his office is in the middle of developing "the most challenging budget we have ever put forward" during a historic economic crisis. Discussions on that happen in August.
Cronk also reminded the council that the resolutions have been "evolving" as amendments have been added and discussions picked up. Now that the final versions have passed, he and his office can "quickly pivot into what that action plan is, because that is exactly what our community is expecting and demanding."
"I do know there is more that is needed," he said, "and we're going to have to continue to get not only creative, but much more assertive in the way that we are reimagining and rethinking how we do public safety in Austin."
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Austin police lifted the shelter in place order after searching the area around 9600 block of Great Hills Trail near the Arboretum for a 41-year-old man named Stephen Broderick, who they believe is responsible for shooting and ultimately killing three people in Northwest Austin
As of 5 p.m., the suspect is still at large and considered to be armed and dangerous, though police do not believe he is actively targeting anyone else. During a press briefing at 4:45 on Sunday, APD Interim police Chief Joseph Chacon said they are switching the search from the immediate area to a fugitive search as they have exhausted all the leads they currently have.
Chacon confirmed during the briefing that Broderick was a former Travis County Sheriff's Office deputy. Chacon said they will remain on the scene for "several hours" and there were 75 FBI agents on the scene as of the briefing.
APD @Chief_Chacon provides updated media briefing in relation to Great Hills Trail incident. - PIO8 https://t.co/47siNWhARI
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) April 18, 2021
Police believe the victims, who have been identified as two Hispanic women and one Black man, knew their assailant. Chacon said a child was involved but is now safely in police custody. Broderick was described as 5 foot, 7 inches with a medium build and was last seen wearing a gray hoodie, sunglasses and a baseball cap.
"We're very sorry that obviously that this has happened and we continue to try and locate this individual, we are transitioning from a search in this area to a fugitive search and those efforts will continue until this person is located," Chacon said. "I don't want anyone to think that we're packing up and going home. We're going to continue to look for this individual because he continues to pose a threat to this community."
At a 2:30 p.m. press briefing, Chacon said APD responded to a "shoot, stab, hot shot" call on Great Hills Trail and Rain Creek Parkway at 11:46 a.m. to find the three victims with gunshot wounds. APD was joined by the Austin Fire Department. ATCEMS, the local chapter of the FBI, the U.S. Marshals, Department of Public Safety, and the Round Rock Police Department for support.
Though Austin Travis-County EMS originally reported it as an active shooter situation, police now believe the incident was an isolated domestic event.
"This is still an ongoing and active investigation and we do not have this individual in custody yet," Chacon said during the first press briefing. "We would ask if you have your neighbors, phone numbers, call or text them check on them and make sure that they're okay. We are concerned that he might possibly take a hostage and be himself sheltered somewhere waiting for us to leave."
At this time the Great Hills Trail scene is still active. We are still asking residents to shelter in place and report suspicious activity. While a suspect is still at large it appears this is a domestic situation that is isolated and there is no risk to the general public. -PIO8
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) April 18, 2021
Three helicopters and SWAT teams were sent to the area, as well as 18 ATCEMS response assets. According to Austin Police, the incident occurred at an apartment complex near Great Hills Trail and Rain Creek Parkway.
#texasshooting #masshooting Arboretum shooting Austin. pic.twitter.com/SkIsgDoYHt
— Jamie Hammonds (@jamie_hammonds5) April 18, 2021
APD announced at 1:02 p.m. that Loop 360 will be shut down in both directions from Spicewood Springs to 183 due to the incident. The roads will remain closed until law enforcement is able to wrap up the crime scene and units demobilize.
TRAFFIC UPDATE: Loop 360 will be shut down in both directions from Spicewoods Springs to 183 due to ongoing incident. - PIO8
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) April 18, 2021
This is a developing story.
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Formula 1 is returning to Florida for the first time since 1959, announcing that the brand-new Miami Grand Prix will join the calendar in 2022 and Austin will no longer be the only F1 race in the U.S.
Held at the Hard Rock Stadium complex in Miami Gardens, this will be the first race in the Sunshine State in 62 years. With a new track setup, F1 will loop the stadium, home of the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
Excited for @F1 @f1miami @HardRockStadium - a Global Entertainment Destination. This event will bring opportunities for so many and will be world-class. Thank you to @gregmaffei #chasecarey #stefanodomenicali @MayorRHarris @Ogilbert @CommishDiaz @MayorDaniella pic.twitter.com/n6dDDD1cPX
— Tom Garfinkel (@TomGarfinkel) April 18, 2021
The new 3.36 mile circuit has 19 corners, three straights and potential for three DRS zones, with expected top speeds of 198 mph.
Now with two races in the U.S., F1 President Stefano Domenicali said they will avoid having back-to-back events by keeping the Miami Grand Prix separate from the U.S. Grand Prix, which is held at Austin's Circuit of the Americas.
The date of the race has yet to be confirmed, though Domenicali said he expects the first race in a 10-year deal to take place in the second quarter of 2022. Austin's race will take place on Oct. 24 this year.
"The USA is a key growth market for us, and we are greatly encouraged by our growing reach in the U.S. which will be further supported by this exciting second race," Domenicali said.
Miami will mark the 11th race location in the U.S. since the Championship began in 1950: Circuit of The Americas in Austin; Dallas, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; Sebring, Florida; Riverside, California; Watkins Glen, New York; Long Beach, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Detroit, Michigan and Phoenix, Arizona. COTA was first opened in 2012.
Domenicali said F1 will be working with the FIA and the Hard Rock Stadium to leave a lasting impact on the community: discounted tickets for residents, a program to support local businesses and a STEM education program through F1 in schools.
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