APD announces policy changes following fatal shootings of officers in Dallas

Lillian Michel and Anusha Lalani

The Austin Police Department held a press conference Friday in response to the killing of five police officers at a protest in Dallas the previous night.

Police Chief Art Acevedo began by expressing condolences for the Dallas Police Department and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit police department, whose officers were killed in the attack. Acevedo admitted that “policing isn’t perfect” but that violence against police officers is not an appropriate response.

“These five officers that gave their lives yesterday, they had nothing to do with [Minnesota or Baton Rouge],” Acevedo said. “These five officers gave their lives in defense, in protection of their critics.”

Acevedo went on to explain the policies APD will enforce for the remainder of July and August to prevent a significant increase in violent crime in the city. APD will be operating at “100 percent staffing on patrol,” meaning there will be 10 or 12 officers working every shift and all officers will be required to work overtime.

According to Acevedo, July and August are the two most violent months for the city of Austin and APD already had a plan in place to increase patrolling. He listed three reasons for deploying more police officers.

“Number one: It will give us an additional capability in terms of response to any type of threat here in the city,” Acevedo said. “Number two: It will absolutely increase our visibility throughout the city … And number three: It will make sure that our officers have every single piece of equipment [available to them] should they become a target.”

Fatima Mann, a co-founder of the Austin Justice Coalition, an activist-led organization raising awareness for criminal justice reform, said the increase in staffing is unnecessary and would not help lower the crime rate.

“Art has wanted more police officers for a long time without addressing the trainings and the issues that already occur,” Mann said. “Getting more officers without adequate training [is not the solution] … Crime happens everywhere. But the thing is that there are more police officers in communities of color as if that’s the only place that crime happens.”

Mann suggested that the police officers receive training from people of the community, such as the Austin Justice Coalition or other organizations, so that the officers have a diversified understanding of how to handle situations involving people from different backgrounds.

Acevedo was also asked to comment on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s statements blaming previous Black Lives Matter protests for the attack, to which Acevedo repeatedly urged that people refrain from associating the attack in Dallas with any organization.

“I couldn’t disagree more with Lieutenant Governor Patrick,” Acevedo said. “Maybe he needs to meet with our local members of Black Lives Matter … The vast majority are good people and all they want is good policing.”

“This has nothing to do with the black community, these are the actions of one individual and I am holding one individual accountable,” Acevedo said.