Complaints against Austin Police Department officers rise, while complaints about UTPD remain low

Julia Brouillette

The number of complaints filed against Austin Police Department officers this year is expected to exceed the number of complaints filed in 2012, according to a recent report released by the Office of the Police Monitor. 

In the first half of 2013, 674 people contacted the police monitor’s office with the intent of filing a complaint, an increase of approximately 9 percent from the first half of 2012. If this year’s numbers continue to rise, it will be the first time in three years that the office has seen the number of complaints increase, according to the report.

The most common complaints the department received fell under the category “responsibility to the community,” which includes allegations related to lack of neutrality in civil actions, inappropriate search and seizure and bias-based profiling.

The office monitors all criticisms of APD and then provides information about those criticisms to the public. Police Monitor Margo Frasier said she is committed to promoting mutual respect between APD officers and the community they serve.

“I tell my staff that their job is to increase trust and transparency, and part of that is being able to explain to people why police officers do what they do,” Frasier said. 

Unlike APD, the UT Police Department does not have an independent police monitor office. Complaints are submitted through the department’s website.

UTPD Lieutenant Dennis Chartier said the UT System requires campus police to compile an annual statistical summary, available upon request to the public.

UTPD received a total of 10 complaints in 2012. Since 2006, the department has not received more than 50 complaints in a single year. 

Chartier said the department presents its complaint statistics to the UTPD Oversight Committee, a group of three students appointed by President William Powers Jr., in an annual meeting.

“It’s not a requirement, but something the chief offered [to do],” Chartier said. 

None of the 30 students The Daily Texan interviewed said they were aware submitting a complaint about a UTPD officer was possible, though some said were glad to learn they had the option.

“It’s important for every organization to have a place for constructive criticism,” biology junior Tania Joakim said. 

Taylor Bruner, a human development and family sciences junior, said she hoped students would not feel intimidated by law enforcement.

“Just because [police officers] have authority doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to call them out if necessary,” Bruner said.

Half of the complaints filed against UTPD last year were unfounded, meaning an investigation proved the allegation false, according to the UTPD report.