Monday, May 04, 2020

Why there's no way Austin PD can hold a July cadet class and comply with City Council's orders

Today on Twitter, Grits analyzed a December Austin City Council resolution delaying Austin PD cadet classes until their training could be analyzed and revamped. I decided to embed the links and republish the string here. 

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk announced today that the Austin Police Department will hold another cadet class in mid-July, despite having achieved very few of the benchmarks the Austin City Council said they must address before doing so. Here's the council's resolution.

For example, what has been done about "Improving background checks and screening of incoming cadets as well as active officers being considered for promotion as it relates to topics such as explicit and implicit bias, racism, homophobia, gender bias and other forms of discrimination"?

There was supposed to be an "audit of the Austin Police Department's training materials." A memo issued on Friday said, "Completion of the internal audit is estimated to be mid-July 2020." But that's when the cadet class is supposed to start!

The city manager was "directed to update or revise training materials for APD to the extent necessary to remedy any findings from the audit," but if it doesn't exist yet, that's hard to do.

The audit was supposed to tell us whether "the use of disqualification codes for cadets, have a disparate effect or impact based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, etc.." Will they recruit the class before that is done?

They were supposed to analyze whether training hours "should be re-balanced to reduce bias, increase use of de-escalation techniques, and improve culturally effective communication, and trauma-informed policing." But classes will start just as that analysis is complete.

The city manager was asked to "Identify police academies that have successfully revised training resulting in reduced force incidents and improved communication with diverse communities." So which are they and what training of theirs should be implemented in Austin?

The audit is supposed to analyze "Cadet training scenarios with a focus on reviewing whether the scenarios teach officers to use all strategies to de-escalate and communicate effectively in the situations statistically most likely to occur on their shifts." The city has created a committee of volunteers, which has yet to meet, to analyze scenario videos used in training, but their analysis won't be complete until (optimistically) July 1st. Let's hope the volunteers finish by then. Even if they do, can the training regimen really be overhauled and new videos be created by the time classes start 2 weeks later?

The training revamp was supposed to include "input and participation of community groups representing those disproportionately affected by policing." But clearly, if the audit won't be complete until the time classes start, that leaves no time for community input.

Said the resolution, "If the aforementioned revisions have not been implemented at least 30 days ahead of the start date ... the cadet class may be rescheduled as deemed appropriate by APD so long as the revisions have been implemented by the new start date. Putting a pin on it, the resolution stated that "the City Manager shall ensure that no new cadet classes are to be initiated until this audit is completed, revisions to the curricula per the milestones above and new training materials, if necessary, are implemented."

With the audit not ready until mid-July, which is when the City Manager wants to launch the new class, it's impossible to imagine good-faith compliance with this resolution's strictures in such a rushed time frame.

Why does the City Manager feel so confident, before the audit results even come back, that he can make all these changes virtually overnight to launch a cadet class mid-July? Arrests and jail bookings are WAY down and we don't need the extra cops right now. What's the rush?

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