Colored drawing by Anthony Jensen

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Buck Stops Here

Below is my unedited speech today to Austin City Council (go to "Citizens Communication" 14:25 in/watch my friend Richard Franklin following me too); three minutes is just never enough time to relay all the concerns!:

Twelve years ago, we formed a task force to develop a civilian oversight system for APD…in trade for having accountability…as if there NEEDS to be a trade-off. We agreed, not the task force, but behind closed doors where the task force recommendations were watered down…to pay our officers top dollar; in fact, the highest pay grade in the nation, per capita. While monetary reward should have been granted AFTER accountability had been achieved, it was expected that APD would follow suit.

This high pay grade was supposed to relieve officers from taking moonlighting jobs for extra income, so they wouldn't be working so much overtime and wouldn't be tired and prone to mistakes on the job, making them a public safety hazard. Take the recent example of one Officer Mark C. Lakes who attacked and punched a young woman in the stomach while she was already laid out on the ground at Barton Creek Mall last Saturday in their effort to break up a peaceful demonstration (people "freezing" in place holding bags with messages on them for 5 minutes) and prevent people from filming the action and incidents occurring in the police riot (filming in public/filming police activities is perfectly legal). This officer works full time at APD, part time (perhaps 20 hours/week) at CapMetro, and was working on APD overtime during this incident.

Since the implementation of civilian oversight, we’ve continued to have unjust police use of force. In 2007, we hired Chief Acevedo who brought to the department new life…new policies and many promises of further change. While we’ve seen improvement on some levels, we’re not in two important aspects: profiling and lethal use of force. We continue to beg for the Preservation of Life standard to be implemented in policy – to which you are all aware of the details. It says, in part, "[o]fficers will plan ahead and consider alternatives which will reduce the possibility of needing to use deadly force."

We further continue to call for accountability in individual lethal force cases. Under Chief Acevedo, we hoped that we’d get VALID and VERIFIABLE information as quickly possible after a police shooting. Instead, we get false information at the get-go that then drives the investigation and disciplinary action. (MEANWHILE: the Chief tells the community not to make unfounded assumptions until all the facts are in!).

Sanders – there was no struggle with a gun; Contreras – he did NOT fire his gun; Carter – the car was NOT used as a weapon.

There was no struggle in the Sanders case as we know from expert testimony filed in the civil suit, which follows what KeyPoint extrapolated. The Chief, hours after this shooting, said it was a “good shooting” as he did after Contreras – going on camera to say Devin shot the gun and when I posed the question in front of media at the scene, “did you see the video yet?” he said no. He simply believed the officer’s tale. The Grand Jury did not see fit to indict the driver in the Carter shooting – and the story changed from using the car as a weapon to the car hitting a parked car…which the driver likely didn't see, much less have time to consider, the officer being on the other side of.

The Department of Justice left here three days before the Carter shooting-death, claiming there wasn’t a pattern of abuse under APD (under Acevedo, it is insinuated). It only took them 4 and a half months to return – three cases now does make a pattern.

We all suffered through KeyPoint Gate where y’all claimed you couldn’t interfere, you couldn’t have access to the report that was meant for the public. We can’t do that again. The buck stops here at council. You DO have the authority to advise the City Manager –who you are the boss of - to advise the Police Chief –who the Manager is the boss of. You have a responsibility to do that. We need to know PUBLICLY that you are doing so.

The Chief claims he must wait for the Grand Jury to decide how he should respond from an administrative standpoint. Remember after the Sanders shooting he promised a quick resolution, that he wouldn’t take 180 days, and in fact, sped it up to half that – now he wants to drag it out. Meanwhile, both officers have been returned to duty and are on the streets with no resolution as to whether they are a public safety threat or not.

LET’S NOT SEE THE QUINTANA SLOW MARCH AGAIN. Check out the chief’s new policy he wrote last August – after the shooting. In 902.5.3 (see the Policy Manual), he expands on the meet and confer contract about his right to ask the AG for an extension beyond the 180 days. In the contract, that only applies to cases of arbitration. In the policy, however, it is said he can only do so IF he is planning on indefinitely suspending an officer and if the prosecutor asks him to. Is he planning on firing the officers? His comments in media say no – he’s still sticking to the “car as a weapon” story.

This would mean if he doesn't fire the officers, he is in violation of his own policy.



The buck stops here.


  1. You are an amazing human Debbie and one of the finest examples of true belief and doacracy.

    Hat's off for a speech worthy of our finest statespersons...

    Debbie for Congress!

  2. Great work Debbie -- we are all proud of you and behind you.

  3. Inspiring as always. There is a pattern, Ozomatli, Jesse Owens, Sophia King, Daniel Rocha, Nathaniel Sanders Jr it isn't hard to see. The more things change the more they stay the same.