The Austin Police Department is collaborating with an FBI agent and the Major Cities Chiefs Association to determine if any of its officers were present during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The association, which represents police chiefs in the nation's largest cities, wrote a letter to members of Congress and recommended that city agencies evaluate tips and leads to find any officers who participated in the riots at the Capitol.
The letter also suggested using facial recognition technology to identify insurrectionists, citing the technology as key to "preventing and disrupting terrorist attacks and addressing violent crime."
The MCCA said that several current and former local law enforcement members were involved in the riots and condemned those who participated, encouraging local agencies to terminate those officers involved.
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said he has spoken with the FBI agent associated with the investigation and is willing to provide information, including photos of officers for facial recognition technology, if needed. No APD officers have been suspected of involvement as of yet. On Tuesday, it was reported a Houston police officer was involved in the riots and has since been charged.
Local officials have expressed concern regarding police officers' participation in the riots as well. Emails between Manley and Austin City Council Member Alison Alter were made public on Jan. 14, showing a disagreement between the two on investigating APD staff. In the emails, Alter said that more needed to be done to determine police officers' whereabouts on Jan. 6 and that Manley should use the riots to discourage certain behavior.
Manley was unsupportive of the suggestion and replied that the exercise would take resources away from real tips in the investigation.
"The amount of resources it would take to conduct an investigation into the hundreds, if not over a thousand officers who were not on duty that day would be overwhelming," Manley said. "(It) would pull investigators and others away from investigating actual complaints of misconduct we have received through our normal course of business."
While Manley did not want to conduct the investigation within the department, he was still willing to participate and assist in the FBI investigation. In a department-wide statement on Jan. 15, Manley further responded by condemning rioters and compared the insurrection to the 9/11 terrorist attack.
"For me, the visual of those rioters illegally entering the Capitol, committing acts of violence and vandalism against one of the greatest symbols of democracy, attacking law enforcement officials, and threatening the safety and security of our elected officials rivals the images of the terrorist acts committed on 9/11 that took so many lives and will forever stand as a stain on our society," Manley said.
The MCCA also compared the riots to terrorism and implored Congress to update the domestic terrorism statute so that acts of domestic terrorism can be more easily prosecuted.
When addressing the future, the association said that "every MCCA member is concerned about the potential for violence in the upcoming days and beyond."
To mitigate these concerns, the letter recommended that agencies should conduct training against implicit bias and the use of force; and emphasize deescalation; and racial, religious and cultural sensitivity.
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Vaccine week 13: Travis County to receive more than 75K doses of vaccine thanks to Johnson & Johnson bump
Eighty-seven providers in Travis County will receive a total of 75,540 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for the week of March 8 as part of the 13th weekly allocation, a nearly 62% increase compared to last week's. The significant increase is largely due to inclusion of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which received an emergency use authorization from the FDA last weekend.
The bulk will go to hub providers Austin Public Health and UT Health Austin, the clinical wing of Dell Medical School, as well as to Seton Medical Center, which will receive the largest share of this week's shipment. These three providers will either receive doses from Moderna or Pfizer.
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