'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."
- Austin Police Department changes get unanimous City Council ... ›
- Austin activists see moment to strike on defunding APD - austonia ›
- Austin Police Department overhaul draws public testimony - austonia ›
- Cronk to Austin City Council: Here are the first steps to eliminate racial disparity in city and APD - austonia ›
- Cronk to council: Here are the first steps to address racial disparity in city and Austin Police Department - austonia ›
- Cronk to brief council on overhaul of Austin police, plans for Manley - austonia ›
- Austin Police Chief Brian Manley will not be fired - austonia ›
- Austin homicides are up, but the numbers can be deceiving - austonia ›
- Abbott threatens action from Texas Legislature after Austin cuts police budget - austonia ›
- Texas governor considering state control of Austin police - austonia ›
- Austin Police Chief Brian Manley tests positive for COVID-19 - austonia ›
- Reports find racial disparities, hazing concerns at Austin PD - austonia ›
- Austin city manager names interim police chief, starts search - austonia ›
- Austin city manager proposes budget for the next fiscal year - austonia ›
- Austin police chief search narrows down to 3 candidates - austonia ›
The city of Austin is warning residents of toxins that are dangerous to both humans and animals in Barton Creek waters at Sculpture Falls.
Concerning levels of cylindrospermopsin were discovered on Sept. 22 after a person got sick and samples were sent to get tested on Sept. 9. Signs will be posted at access points to Sculpture Falls that people and their pets should not injest or swim in the water.
Unlike the harmful algae making dogs sick in parts of Lake Travis and Lady Bird Lake in past summers, these toxins are found in the water, the city says. Barton Creek visitors are asked to avoid stagnant water especially.
The toxins also result in different health effects than the harmful algae in Lady Bird Lake, including liver and kidney damage. If exposed, people can feel:
- Bloody diarrhea
TinyFest Texas 2021
When: 10 a.m. Saturday – 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms, 10621 Pioneer Farms Drive
What: Tour tiny houses, van converstions, shipping container homes and more at this year's TinyFest. Grab tickets here for a weekend of speakers, workshops and panel discussions plus live music, food and more!
Fierce Whiskers Grand Opening
When: 12 p.m. Saturday
Where: Fierce Whiskers, 5333 Fleming Court
What: Fan of whiskey? Come along to the free grand opening of Fierce Whiskers Distillery's new tasting room. Enjoy bites from a food truck, oysters, musical performances and a raffle.
Austin Summer Carnival
When: 6 p.m. Saturday – 2 a.m. Sunday
Where: The Venue ATX, 516 East 6th St.
What: Don your dancing outfit for this carnival that celebrates the African heritage with Brazilian, Latin and Caribbean rhythms in Austin. Snag your tickets here.
Beginner's Succulent Arrangement and Planting
When: 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Succulent Native, 5501 North Lamar Blvd.
What: Calling all first-time planters: Get your hands dirty and learn about succulent and cactus arrangement and care. No tools required! Grab your tickets here.