Sunday, June 07, 2020

Austin City Council to consider limiting police use of force, no-confidence vote for police chief, in wake of recent protests

Next Thursday, the Austin City Council will consider several resolutions related to policing issues in response to recent protests. Two in particular merit Grits readers' attention:

Item 95 by Greg Casar would limit use of lethal force and so-called less-lethal munititions. The new direction on police use of force policy would be much more restrictive than the current one:
  • Use of deadly force against individuals, including persons fleeing (in vehicle or on foot), shall be limited to situations where necessary for self-defense or defense of others against an imminent deadly threat, or threat of serious bodily injury;
  • Deadly force shall not be used unless all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted; and
  • Use of force by APD shall incorporate de-escalation tactics in all circumstances. 
The resolution also declares that "use of tear gas or impact munitions against persons exercising their First Amendment rights is strictly prohibited," declares that "the use, stockpile, and purchase of military-grade equipment shall be reduced to the greatest extent possible," tells the City Manager to change policies to restrict use of no-knock warrants, and creates new restrictions and reporting requirements for use of facial-recognition technology.

Item 96 by Natasha Harper Madison declares the city council has "no confidence" in the city's current public-safety leadership, including Police Chief Brian Manley. This is important because, under the city charter, the council cannot advocate firing or demoting Manley, only the city manager can do that. But they can express an opinion about his job performance, and a no-confidence vote would send a strong signal to City Manager Spencer Cronk that Chief Manley needs to go. 

Item 96 also takes a first step toward reducing Austin PD's budget by directing the city manager to eliminate funding for sworn officer positions in the budget that the city hasn't been able to fill and reallocating the money toward alternative approaches to solving problems.

There are several additional, related resolutions on the agenda. Go here to read Just Liberty's summary and find out how to support these measures.


MarginalThoughts said...

The link to Item 95 links to a blog edit link. This appears to be the correct link from the message board:

Anonymous said...

I thought your column of June 5 said the City Manager "could not fire" Person In Government Manley.

Can he or Can't he?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks, fixed it, 7:29.

@5:19, at this point, my understanding is he can only demote Manley, not fire him. IANAL, but that's what city legal allegedly told the city manager, and the civil-service provision quoted in that post appears to corroborate it. OTOH, I suggested other tactics in that blog post that would let the city manager remove him as chief. First things first, Cronk should just ask Manley to resign.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I now see what you were reacting to in the post - it's phrased that way because the city charter explicitly forbids council from asking for the chief to be fired or demoted. The civil service provision restraining the city manager from firing him is a state statute. It's all a bit confusing but the gist is council can't fire or demote him, or even advocate such. The city manager could have fired him if he hadn't been promoted from within, but because he was, can only demote him to the equivalent of his last rank in the department, which was chief of staff. I hope that's not clear as mud, but that's my current understanding.

Gunny Thompson said...

From Unfiltered Minds of Independent Thinkers of the 3rd Grade Dropout Section:

You can't kill a dog by killing the fleas on a dog.

If you can handle the truth, well here it is: There are no sacred cows in public government. the problem is not just with Manley. The statement that only the city manager can fire him is misinformation that meant to place another false image of public official perceived untouchable status. I suggest that the city issue a directive to the city manager directing that he remove Manley, if he refuses, then he, the city manager, must be removed.

Second, the USSC has ruled that persons alleging civil service protection can be indefinitely suspended.

Third, Manley can be subjected to impeachment: Texas Constitution, Art XV, Sec 5: states that all officers against whom articles of impeachment may be preferred shall be suspended from the exercise of the duties of their office, without pay, during the pendency of such impeachment.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"The statement that only the city manager can fire him is misinformation"

Actually, no, it's specifically in the city charter. See Article II, Sec. 9 of the Austin city charter.

The US Sentencing Commission is a federal agency that doesn't govern civil service in Texas. That's Ch. 143 of the Texas Local Government Code.

Finally, "impeachment" under the Texas Constitution applies only to "the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, commissioner of the general land office, comptroller, and the judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and District Court." The Texas House of Representatives cannot impeach a local police chief.

I'm responding instead of just deleting these false arguments, but make no mistake, all were false.

Gunny Thompson said...

From Unfiltered Minds of Independent Thinkers of the 3rd Grade Dropout Section:

Grits, I hear what your point is and respect your position, however, the USSC opinion was not an issue concerning the Sentencing Commission, but an issue concerning sovereign immunity.

Not disputing your position that the Texas Constitution applies only to the governor, etc my position is that the Constitution does not explicitly limit who can be impeached.

While we have had differing opinions with Ch. 143, my position remains that 143 is unconstitutional in regulating peace officers and fire fighters, who are public officers not employees.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Ah, you meant US Supreme Court. Usually its acronym is SCOTUS. Would have to see the case you're referencing. That said, TX law also allows for indefinite suspension of civil service employees, but only for cause, when the local civil service commission agrees the person has engaged in misconduct. That's not the case here.

I went and looked at the TX Constitution impeachment section. It only applies to the offices I listed.

Finally, since no courts have agreed with you that LGC Ch. 143 is unconstitutional, for now we must deal with what it says. The courts have and will enforce it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯