Sunday, February 10, 2019

Austin Police Chief is the last person who should be giving other chiefs advice on rape-clearance rate data!

Bizarrely, Austin Police Chief Bryan Manley is scheduled to speak to the Major Cities Police Chiefs' Association in Washington D.C. this week to share "hard lessons he's learned" about how police categorize sexual assault cases.

He's not ready. Manley hasn't yet taken responsibility for what happened or been held accountable for his cynical strategy to blame rape victims for APD-management malfeasance. Until he does, he shouldn't be lecturing anybody on this topic. In fact, this might be a good week to cancel his trip and spend the time instead on self-reflection, or perhaps listening to some of the growing cadre of victims upset about how the department handled their cases.

Readers will recall Austin PD ousted the head of the sex crimes unit, Liz Donegan, because she refused to inflate data to make it look like her unit solved more crimes than it did. Under former Chief Art Acevedo, who is now chief in Houston, the department pressured her to claim detectives solved crimes but cases didn't go forward because victims refused to cooperate.

Donegan refused, and was dismissed from her post, replaced by officials who immediately began to change the data to increase "clearance rates" by 50 percent. When the news came out in a national podcast last fall, Manley doubled down, repeatedly insisting to the media, including to this writer, that victims' failure to cooperate was the source of the problem.

But an audit by the Texas Department of Public Safety, released with little notice by Chief Manley at a late-New-Years-Eve press conference, found that a third of cleared cases in the sample analyzed were improperly categorized as "exceptionally cleared" because the victims wouldn't cooperate.

That's significant because Chief Manley describes Donegan's ouster as stemming from a "disagreement" over how to report clearance-rate data, which he says was resolved when she was replaced. So he's granted publicly that she was dismissed over this issue under his predecessor, the only remaining question was whether APD was right to do so?

We learned on New Years Eve that they were not; she was a victim of some seriously shady employment practices. Donegan was wrongfully removed from her position because she wouldn't blame rape victims in her clearance-rate data for her own unit's failures. This can now be stated without fear of contradiction or accusation of libel. It's just true.

Manley wants to pretend the problems all stemmed from clerical errors, hoping to elide any culpability for malfeasance by APD brass. But that ignores the severity of the now-admitted/proven allegations. To repeat: APD dismissed the head of its sex-crimes unit because she wouldn't fake data, then changed the categorization of case results to blame victims for cases not going forward.

The chief has never publicly apologized either to Sgt. Donegan or the wrongly-blamed rape victims for his department's slanders against them, but now is going to lecture other chiefs about the "hard lessons" he's learned? Please!

Only one of two things can explain it: complete obliviousness or excessive chutzpah. Or, I suppose the third possibility is he's receiving really bad PR advice.

See prior, related Grits posts:


BarkGrowlBite said...

Most police chiefs are political hacks. It has been a common practice in many police agencies to cook the books in order to make the agency look good and to make a city look safe. Thus NYPD classified a number of forcible rape cases as illegal entry ... and that's no joke. Felonious assaults were classified as disorderly conduct. Some years back, Houston PD classified several homicides as suicide even though the deceased had been shot multiple times.

Check out "THE CRIME NUMBERS GAME: Management by Manipulation" by John A. Eterno and Eli B. Silverman.

Anonymous said...

It wouldn't be Texas Politics without dismissal of accountability, sophistry, gaslighting, or scapegoating.

Time for Austin leadership to remove Police Chief Manley as he is certainly "Un-manley".

Unknown said...

Grits, thanks for sharing this outrage! This deception and dismissal of sex crimes against women ought to earn these police "conspiracy to commit rape" charges -- as Stephanie Hallett of Ms. has repeatedly reported that once rape kits are tested, they usually find a man who is a serial rapist and/or murderer of women.

When we take gendered violence seriously, those who commit violent crimes against women will be held accountable; and women who defend themselves and/or their kids against a batterer/rapist will have their cases properly dismissed as lawful under our state's self-defense and defense-of-third-party waivers in the Penal Code. While there may be disagreement on HOW to hold someone accountable, I hope we all agree there SHOULD be accountability!

Sherry Nance is under review for parole again this year after a three-year set-off: she is one of more than 100 women recommended for clemency in the 1990s by TX Council on Family Violence. She had evidence from an MD and clinical psychologists that her ex-husband was molesting her child: the police and prosecutors didn't care about this evidence when she killed him in a shootout.

Why would evidence, such as of a dilated rectal sphincter in the child, not be seen as relevant? The anonymous postings above are correct about politics: but they are the politics of patriarchal gender relations that blame victims and enable those who commit violence. Our whole society suffers when this happens!

Thanks again for your work,
Cathy Marston, PhD
2018-2019 Margaret Fuller Scholar, Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation
Founder and Executive Director, Free Battered Texas Women
P.O. Box 47
Schertz, TX 78154