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(Emma Freer/Austonia)

Delaying a new police cadet class, creating a new city civil rights office, and eliminating some officer positions at the Austin Police Department are among City Manager Spencer Cronk's first proposals to end systemic racial disparity and police brutality, according to a memo from Cronk to the Austin City Council on Wednesday.


"The recent deaths of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer and our own officer-involved shooting death of Mr. Michael Ramos have created a community outcry the likes we have not seen in recent memory," Cronk wrote in the memo. "I stand with the community, which is demanding that we implement the policy and cultural changes required to end the disproportionate impact of police violence on Black Americans, Latinx Americans, and other non-white ethnic communities."

Cronk three-page memo came in response to a package of resolutions unanimously approved last week by the council, aimed at overhauling the police department in the wake of violent clashes between police and anti-brutality demonstrators in recent weeks.

His memo did not mention the future of Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, whose job is on the line after the council called on him to resign or be removed. Only Cronk has the authority to remove him from his post.

What's in the proposal

The proposal includes:

  • A "core leadership team" headed by the deputy and assistant city managers to oversee a holistic overhaul of city departments to eliminate racial disparity in all areas, not just police. "The work will involve leaders across our enterprise, including those within the Office of Police Oversight, the Equity Office, Intergovernmental Relations, Labor Relations, the Police Department, Public Health, Law, and others," the memo reads. The team will create Advisory Work Groups to make recommendations.
  • Key changes in the 2021 budget, including earmarking several current functions of the APD that might be moved elsewhere, including forensics, 911, victim services, the training academy and others. They also include the elimination of 100 sworn positions currently open at the department and delaying the July 2020 cadet class.
  • Increasing transparency and accountability on both the police and on the progress of last week's council resolutions by: creating the city's first-ever Civil Rights Division, increasing the authority and resources of the civilian Office of Police Oversight, launching the Community Police Review Commission and creating a website to track both the new resolutions and the recommendations in the Tatum investigation report—released in April—into racist behavior at the police department.

In his memo, Cronk said these were just the initial steps in a "deliberate and intentional" process, which he promised would bring the change demanded by both the city and community.

"This is not just a law enforcement issue. This is a public health issue. This is a social services issue. This is an economic and housing issue. And this is very much an issue of trust and accountability. This proposal aims to tackle the root causes of these issues holistically, starting with reimagining what public safety means in Austin."

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