With a 9-2 vote, former assistant chief Joseph Chacon was confirmed as the new Austin police chief after a lengthy city council meeting on Thursday.
Chacon was named chief by Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk Wednesday morning but was awaiting official approval from a divided City Council after six months as interim chief.
"I'm confident Interim chief Joseph Chacon is the right person to lead our City's police department to achieve results, build trust and transparency, and accomplish equitable public safety outcomes for all Austin residents and visitors," Cronk said on Wednesday.
While he'd already secured the vote of Mayor Steve Adler among others, some city council members and community organizations weren't convinced that an insider was the best fit for a police force that has been accused of racism and poorly handling of sexual assault investigations.
Chacon replaces former chief Brian Manley, who retired in the spring after nearly a year of reform following the summer's Black Lives Matter protests.
Those skeptical of Chacon, including council member Greg Casar, asked the chief at Thursday's meeting about his commitments to police reform, his solutions for crime reduction and the department's handling of sexual assault cases.
NEW: Here are the questions I will ask Interim Chief Chacon during today's #ATXCouncil meeting.
Before deciding on a permanent Chief, we need a public conversation on these topics of safety & justice. #ATX https://t.co/aeX6CD5XrK pic.twitter.com/rrN2Y6n8gx
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) September 30, 2021
Chacon said that the sex crimes department now has 20 detectives, more than any other unit. Chacon also said that gun crime is driving the city's spiking homicide rate and has created a new gun crime prevention program for the department.
Chacon has been in law enforcement for 28 years and was appointed assistant chief in Austin in 2016. Despite being part of the police force before its budget cuts, fund reallocation and police cadet raining overhaul, Chacon said he's been receptive to changing the status quo.
As interim chief, he was part of the shift in APD's training curriculm from a "paramilitary nature to one that is based in an adult learning environment" and has reduced police body cam footage public release from 60 days after an incident to just 10.
Chacon also said at the meeting that he doesn't support Save Austin Now's Prop A, which hopes to increase police staffing to 2 officers per 1,000 residents to combat crime, because the theory is "based on older methodologies" before they improved their data technology. Austinites will vote on the Save Austin Now initiative that will add police officers along with other measures to the APD in November.
After nearly four hours, Chacon was given a "yes" vote by all but members Mackenzie Kelly and Alison Alter, both of whom were unsure of the force's growth with an insider as leader.
Chacon defeated finalists Emada Tingirides, a Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief, and Dallas Police Department Assistant Chief Avery Moore for the position.
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While on bond for a murder charge for the killing of Michael Ramos, Austin police officer Christopher Taylor was once again indicted with a separate charge for the death of a mentally ill man in July 2019. Officer Karl Krycia, who also fired shots at the mentally ill man, was indicted with a murder charge for the July 2019 incident, as well.
Taylor, who was charged with murder for the shooting of Ramos, an unarmed Black and Hispanic man, in April 2020, turned himself in for the newest on-duty murder charge on Friday.
Ten months before the death of Ramos, Taylor shot and killed Mauris DeSilva, a Univeristy of Texas-San Antonio professor with schizophrenia who was suffering a psychotic break, after he allegedly took a step toward three on-scene police officers with a knife at a luxury condo building near Third and Bowie streets on July 31, 2019. Two of the three officers opened fire after DeSilva allegedly did not obey their commands. All officers returned on duty in the weeks after the shooting.
BREAKING: Austin Police Officer Chris Taylor faces a new murder charge in a second on-duty shooting in July 2019. He already has been charged with murder in the April 2020 shooting death of Michael Ramos. The latest case stems from the shooting of Mauris DeSilva. pic.twitter.com/dx5OfyKYJ2
— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) August 27, 2021
DeSilva's family filed a lawsuit against the department, citing that the shooting was unjustified and that APD knew DeSilva's history of mental illness and had deescalated the situation before.
"During the last years and months of his life, Dr. DeSilva struggled with increasingly severe mental illness," the lawsuit says. "Austin PD was well aware of this fact."
According to the lawsuit DeSilva's neighbor called Austin PD that night, fearing that an emotionally disturbed DeSilva was once again suffering from a psychotic break as he held a knife to his neck in the condominium hallway. The neighbor asked for a mental health officer. While on-duty mental health officer Benjamin Lynch was available to respond, he was not at the scene at the time of the murder. Police say that Lynch was on his way to the scene when DeSilva was killed.
Attorneys for Taylor say that he "had no choice but to use deadly force to protect himself."
"This was in no way murder," they said in a statement.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon said the department would delay their conclusion in its administrative review of both Officer Taylor and Officer Karl Krycia, who also fired shots at the scene.
:APD respects the role the Grand Jury holds in the criminal justice process and will continue to cooperate with the District Attorney's Office on this case. As with anyone charged with an offense, these officers are presumed innocent unless found guilty through the criminal process," Chacon said. "In respect of their right to a fair trial, we will not be commenting further."
Officer Krycia has been placed on paid administrative duty, while Taylor remains on leave without pay after his murder charge in Ramos' killing. Taylor was released on personal bond Friday morning following the second charge.
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The Austin police officer who shot and killed Michael Ramos last April has been charged with murder, according to local reports.
An arrest warrant had been issued for Officer Christopher Taylor, according to the Travis County Sheriff's Office. He was booked overnight and is out of jail as of Thursday morning on bond, as reported by KXAN; his bail was set at $100,000.
The issuing of the warrant marks the first time in decades that an officer has faced a murder charge in an excessive force case, according to the Austin American-Statesman, which first reported the news along with KVUE.
Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza has said he would ask a grand jury to consider charges related to the death of Michael Ramos by March 30, as reported by the Statesman.
Ramos, an unarmed 42-year-old Black and Latino man, was killed during a shooting at a southeast Austin apartment complex parking lot. Along with the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ramos' death set off mass protests against police violence and racial injustice in Austin last summer.
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