Restore Justice recently wrote about Austin Police Department chief, Art Acevedo, embracing a study that uses data to show the disparity in racial policing in the department. Now, an Austin media outlet has released a recording they obtained of Acevedo voicing his frustration to the department’s top brass about two high profile incidents that the department was recently involved in.
Over the summer, Acevedo held a meeting with his command staff to address the need for active leadership as well as to discuss a pair of APD cases that drew a lot of attention and criticism – the arrest of Breaion King and the shooting of David Joseph.
In the recording obtained by KVUE’s Tony Plohetski, Acevedo can be heard saying, “we are at the crossroads in American policing. And the problem ain’t the cops. The problem is the leadership.”
Acevedo’s statement sheds light on an issue that reaches far beyond Austin’s city limits and should not be discounted. Those seeking reform in policing have long argued that no change can be made without a top-down approach. As the head of APD, Acevedo has continuously taken steps to not only improve relations between Austin residents and police, but to also encourage transparency.
On the arrest of Breaion King – an Austin teacher who was pulled over, violently pulled out of her car, and arrested after telling the officer, Brian Richter, to “hurry up” – Acevedo condemns Richter’s actions, stating that they were in no way justifiable.
“She wasn’t going with the program. Who gives a [expletive]? You know what? Millennials ask questions, get over it,” the chief is heard saying, “that was such an easy stop to de-escalate…And I am sickened that somehow people are still trying to justify Richter.” He continued, “Had that been a pretty white girl in her Sunday best dress, I don’t think that Richter would have responded – acting the same exact way – I don’t think that Richter would have responded that way.”
King has since filed a lawsuit against the City of Austin.
Acevedo gave an equally passionate, yet forceful, rebuke when discussing the Joseph shooting. David Joseph was an unarmed, naked teenager who was shot two times while running towards APD Officer Geoffrey Freeman.
“If you can’t handle a 19-year-old kid in broad daylight, naked, and your first instinct is to come out with your gun, and your next instinct is to shoot the kid dead? You don’t need to be a cop, I don’t give a [expletive] how nice you are.”
He went on to say that the union and many on his staff disagreed with his firing of Freeman, but that he didn’t lose any sleep over it.
Following the release of the recording the chief tweeted,
“It’s important to note that my message was directed at a couple of folks [and] the very vast majority of our people are outstanding!” He also called into Koke FM, an Austin-based radio station, to respond to the video release.
Acevedo is right – law enforcement in America is at a critical crossroads and the path that they choose to take regarding policy will have lasting impacts. He’s also correct in saying that a majority of law enforcement are outstanding which shouldn’t be overshadowed by the actions of a select few who choose to act otherwise. But, it will take strong leadership to force that change. As the chief noted in the video, “the problem is leadership that lacks the intestinal fortitude to make the tough calls.”