Like 'an outdoor crime scene after it had already rained:' APD investigator unable to confirm allegations
On Friday afternoon, the city of Austin released the findings of an independent investigation into allegations of racism, sexism and homophobia within the top ranks of the Austin Police Department.
While San Antonio lawyer Lisa Tatum was largely unable to confirm specific allegations, she did uncover a "very high level of fear of retaliation" among APD staff and "doubt there would be a substantive report from which the truth could be learned," according to her 46-page write-up.
Austin City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, during a press conference Monday, said the report indicates a department "in dire need" of an overhaul.
"While the investigators never found that smoking gun, so to speak, the report is however packed with plenty of other bombshells, including evidence of racism, failed leadership, cronyism, and a prevailing fear of retaliation that keeps would-be whistleblowers silent," she added.
The investigation was announced Nov. 7 after an anonymous complaint alleging former assistant chief Justin Newsom had used "racial slurs and epithets" throughout his career "with the knowledge of other leadership at APD" was released to the public. Newsom retired Oct. 31 with no change to his pension.
Tatum was tasked with investigating a series of allegations—ranging from Newsom's use of racist and homophobic language to Chief Brian Manley's failure to report such behavior for investigation—and providing legal advice to the city about how to respond. She interviewed 58 witnesses, about half of whom required anonymity to participate.
"Lisa Tatum frequently described this task as like 'being named an honorary detective who was assigned to investigate an outdoor crime scene after it had already rained heavily - twice,'" according to the report.
Tatum said the allegations could not be confirmed or denied because witnesses were unable to provide specific evidence and certain records could not be accessed.
Despite these roadblocks, the report does arrive at some conclusions.
"Through all of these interviews it became clear that issues of race lie just below the surface," she wrote in the report. "Reports came to us, from different ranks, races and genders, advising of the fact that the racist and sexist name calling and use of derogatory terms associated with race and sex persists."
At the end of the report, Tatum issued a series of recommendations to the city, including a review of the union contract that governs discipline.
In particular, Tatum recommended the city reconsider the 180-day rule, which requires disciplinary action to take place within 180 days of an infraction.
"There was a high level of frustration expressed because complaints of discrimination are often known to fall on deaf ears, sit in files without action in excess of 180 days, then are discounted or disregarded," per the report.
Other recommendations include improving file management and record retention; management and unconscious bias training; and policies governing computer, mobile phone and social media communications.
In an April 17 memo, City Manager Spencer Cronk wrote, "It is my commitment to the City Council and the Austin community that action will be taken to ensure the Austin Police Department addresses the issues in a meaningful way."
In December, council directed Cronk to initiate a separate investigation into the APD and its culture, which is underway.
In an emailed statement about the report, Manley wrote, in part, "We will make all necessary changes to ensure our employees have a work environment and culture that promotes equity, fairness, and frees them from concerns of retaliation."
In the meantime, Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza said at yesterday's press conference that she hopes APD leadership changes how it responds to such allegations.
"I've been on council for six years now, and in that time I've seen leadership at APD fight us time and time again on reforms designed to promote equity and fairness," she said. "[The APD leadership] can choose finally to step up and take responsibility and earn the trust of all Austinites."
The Austin City Council on Friday unanimously approved a measure to add to the November ballot the massive $7.1B "Project Connect," a 20-year overhaul of Austin's transit system that would include a new light rail and "rapid bus" lines.
The council plans to add it to the ballot in a formal order next week, members said. Then it's up to voters to decide whether to approve it.
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Life was so sweet for live music junkies living in the Live Music Capital of the World—up until the venues closed, the stages went dark, and the world of Austin music closed down.
Miss your places? Miss your people? Miss blowing all your money on music?
Jagtronica Wednedsays, Purple Bee TV<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a2cab8a9562f05e4d4667d82dfca7bd"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KbeRftaXIZg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Interstellar grooves and psychedelic explorations improvised by a full band - live in the <a href="http://purplebeetv.org" target="_blank">Purple Bee</a> studios. Wednesdays 8 p.m.</p>
Patrice Pike Band Keep the Faith Livestream<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a94897344c627ae7362202afe441fa05"><div class="fb-video" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/PatricePikeBand/videos/324002002065701" data-allowfullscreen="true"></div></div><p>Iconic hard rock favorite unplugs in her home space. Thursdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. </p>
Afro Jazz Saturdays at the Sahara Lounge<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d5519cfcd8eee1dc9add8a63b3c1b66f"><div class="fb-video" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/SaharaLoungeATX/videos/217338429591881" data-allowfullscreen="true"></div></div><p>Join this East Austin gem of a bar for regular virtual live shows from the stage, including a regular online residency by African jazz musicians Ibrahim Aminou and Aboubacar Sylla. Saturdays 8 p.m. https://www.facebook.com/SaharaLoungeATX</p>
KUTX Livestreams<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="950f84e2286e0dc0304d59aa99edfbc1"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/QNVfbrr_v0M?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>This local Austin-centric arm of KUT hosts various performance livestreams nearly every day of the week. Find their schedule here. </p>
Live in the Virtual Gallery with Bonnie Whitmore<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vbWVkaWEucmJsLm1zL2ltYWdlP3U9JTJGY29udGVudCUyRjU2ZTVkNGU4MWQwN2MwNzQzZDI4MWQ2MyUyRjE1OTYxNDgzMjQ1MjctTlQ2VlFQM1ZNM0daR0VMNTQ1OEElMkZCVyUyQmF1Z3VzdC5wbmclM0Zmb3JtYXQlM0QxNTAwdyUyNmNvbnRlbnQtdHlwZSUzRGltYWdlJTJGcG5nJmhvPWh0dHBzJTNBJTJGJTJGaW1hZ2VzLnNxdWFyZXNwYWNlLWNkbi5jb20mcz00OCZoPWQ0YmY4MjkzMTA2OTRkNjdjNzQ1ZmNhODhjNGQ3ZDI4YWY3YTE2ZDgyZjM3OTI4MjVkOGJmY2U3MTk0NjU2YWYmc2l6ZT05ODB4JmM9MTI2MDUxNzQxNiIsImV4cGlyZXNfYXQiOjE2NDg3MTY2NzJ9.J2ntaGHE00UZvxWETyI9XZ3xC3iC1nAAo8bk38ILkyA/img.jpg" id="72e14" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dc34d23c5508b20dfea2642717052bfd" />August 2020 — Bonnie Whitmore
BettySoo's Nobody's Happy (Online and Isolated) Hour<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.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.gaEmnDK5F-J8rgXWUIAnXGHJOveE-ub3wm8UUPTLrhA/img.jpg" id="82829" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d4fa34ac0fa355da87c02e8572d3fe46" />BettySoo's Nobody's Happy Hour - Summer 2020
DJ Mel's Living Room Dance Party<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="45581c8bb0ae6cf0ddbe03e775d6825f"><div class="fb-video" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=3446714958713944" data-allowfullscreen="true"></div></div><p>A streaming staple practically since the day the venues shut down, DJ Mel Cavaricci (aka DJ Mel) spins from his living room. Saturdays 6-10p.m.</p>
Dreadneck Wednesdays from the Flamingo Cantina<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.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.Txy1LrSKsTPNG0dDU0xjlU2KkBu5cmcE8txaOdO8I_M/img.jpg" id="7c376" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ebccf8a39ef46845384013bb233d0747" />Dreadneck Wednesdays Live Stream w/ Mau Mau Chaplains
James McMurtry's Wednesday residency<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="46c8760066753cce717a6a3335d5f43d"><div class="fb-video" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/8637988681/videos/608632053134073" data-allowfullscreen="true"></div></div><p>A fixture on the alt-country music scene in Austin and beyond, McMurtry brings his weekly residency at Continental Club home to you (from his place) with opening acts. Wednesdays 8 p.m. </p>
Not at Donn's Depot<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b8a0b32db58eccac4a2695a8eb2f4747"><div class="fb-video" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/chrisgageaustin/videos/10159892023859008" data-allowfullscreen="true"></div></div><p>The slightly obvious but oh-so-telling title for pianist Chris Gage's Monday livestream, where he tickles the ivories from his home studio, joined occasionally by wife Christine Albert, and recreates his popular and long-running Monday residency at Donn's. Mondays 8 p.m. </p>
Jackie Venson<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d41a9251d5c15ad731ae31c77455a79a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/43xotR5fRNM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Austin born-and-bred singer songwriter, brings her guitar and her truth-telling music to her live-streaming page. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays at 9 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. <a href="https://jackievenson.com/livestream/" target="_blank">https://jackievenson.com/livestream/</a></p>
The Austin Justice Coalition is clearly frustrated with city leadership, which has not responded to its request to cut $100 million in funding from the Austin Police Department and remove Chief Brian Manley (or make him resign).
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The Austin Independent School Board delayed the school year to Sept. 8 in an early-Friday vote, giving teachers three more weeks to prepare for online learning and the community more time to see a drop in COVID-19 cases before students, faculty and staff return to the classroom.
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The group behind a petition to put a citywide public-camping ban on the November ballot in Austin said Thursday that they were "engaging a highly respected local Democratic litigator" in their efforts to fight a city ruling earlier in the week that their petition did not enough valid signatures.
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David Frost, 22, had never attended a protest before the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in May. Then the cell phone-wielding Austinite became a key player in a series of events that touched off major change in the Austin Police Department.
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