The overall library of videos selected perpetuated dangerous racial and class stereotypes that displayed working class people and communities of color as disproportionate recipients of violent and deadly responses from police. People of color seldom benefited from crisis intervention or deescalation strategies from officers in videos. Instead, a strong emphasis on gaining compliance and control over all else from communities of color often led to rapid escalation with often violent and even deadly results for minor infractions. In contrast, white community members were most often extended grace and understanding. Opportunities for story-telling and building empathy was almost exclusively given to white men.Here's the full report, and initial coverage from KXAN. A companion document prepared by the panel's facilitators echoed similar concerns. These criticisms come on the heels of a review by the city's Equity Office finding Austin's police academy subjected cadets to unnecessary hazing and fostered a "culture of violence."
Mayor Steve Adler and the City Council's newest member, McKenzie Kelly, want to restart the police academy as soon as March. The analogy being used behind the scenes is that APD can repair the plane (i.e., the academy) while they're flying it. I wonder if aircraft mechanics are as enamored of that idea as politicians who want to restart cadet classes without addressing the underlying problems?
Among the flaws the community panel wants them to fix: "An emphasis on 'winning' interactions and a 'warrior mentality' in many videos created and repeatedly reinforced an 'us versus them' and 'good guy/bad guy' dynamic that pits officers against community members."In addition, "Many videos emphasized a transactional approach to interacting with the community with a focus on liability and quid pro quo exchanges, rather than what is needed to develop genuine, authentic interactions with community members to sustain long-term trust and relationships."
Further, "Videos that showed officers antagonizing community members and using excessive force were attributed to aberrant individual behavior rather than acknowledging the cultural and systemic factors that permit or encourage such behavior."
None of this is new: Cadets themselves identified all these problems years ago and some of them sued the department over it. Now, though, two different independent reviews commissioned by the city itself - one performed by consultants, the other by a community panel - have corroborated and reinforced those criticisms.
This has been going on a long time now. City Manager Spencer Cronk was told in December 2019 to begin the review whose results we're seeing now. He blew off the city council and asked them to restart cadet classes over the summer without having fixed the curriculum. In August, though, the city council told him, "No, we're serious," and the city finally began the long-awaited review.
Between the equity audit and the video review, its' clear at this point that Austin's curriculum for cadets needs a soup-to-nuts overhaul. There's no emergency need for officers so pressing that an academy can't wait a few months to fix all the pedagogical problems. Indeed, after everything we've been through in Austin over the last year, it would be a tremendous betrayal of trust to ignore these recommendations and move forward as though the same ol' same ol' was still good enough.