What happened after the Black Lives Matter protests last summer? APD will not say. City does not want to release after action report examining ODA response – News
Protesters and the APD clash during the Black Lives Matter protests from May 30-31 last year. APD’s after-action report examining its response to the protests has not been made public. (Photo by Jana Birchum)
The Austin Police Department completed âseveral draftsâ of an after action report examining the department’s response to the Black lives matter protests in downtown Austin, but the city does not want to release the report, saying it could hamper the police response to “large protests, riots or other acts of civil disobedience that may occur in the future “.
The the Chronicle filed a public information request with the DPA on July 30 requesting the report and emails between Lt. Steve jones, which works with the department Special Events Unit and was tasked with leading the review of the 2020 protest response, and the former police chief Brian manley and entering Joseph Chacon. However, the city’s legal department asked the Texas Attorney General Ken paxton for permission to retain most of the documents (some unrelated to the after action report were provided to us on September 21).
“Some of the information at issue consists of staffing plans created by the department to continue responding to the unprecedented protests that were unfolding in May and June 2020,” the city’s August 12 letter read. “This information reveals the department’s strategies and its ability to respond to such emergencies.”
Regarding the after-action report, the city’s legal team argued that it “could be used by terrorists or other criminal actors to identify vulnerabilities in the department’s response to emergencies and disasters.” .
At a municipal council meeting on Monday, September 20 Public safety committee, Police control office Director Farah Muscadin reported that his office referred 202 unique complaints about actions taken during BLM protests to DPA Internal Affairs, which only investigated 27 of them; 21 other complaints from APD were all investigated. Many referrals have been closed, Muscadin said, after a preliminary review by an APD panel set up to deal with the unprecedented number of complaints. As an example, the director of the OPO cited a protester throwing a water bottle at an officer; because it was an “act of riot”, the officer’s response was found to be justified. âWe don’t think the initial assessment conducted by IA is the equivalent of a full investigation,â Muscadin said.
A spokesperson for the BOA told us that of the 48 complaints the AI ââinvestigated, 11 resulted in disciplinary action and 12 resulted in the exoneration of the officers involved. (In these cases, the details of the complaint cannot be made public.) One officer received a 10-day suspension, nine were ordered to complete up to five days of additional training, and one received a reprimand oral.
“We don’t think the initial assessment conducted by IA is the equivalent of a full investigation.” – Farah Muscadin, director of police surveillance
Muscadin described to the committee the obstacles his office encountered in trying to participate in the investigation of each complaint, as the BOA is authorized to do through the meeting and conference agreement between the city and the Austin Police Association. âWe had difficulty accessing the investigative documents,â Muscadin said. “We learned that the department has a separate system to enter information relating to the investigation of protests to which we did not have access.”
APA President Ken casaday – himself exonerated for spraying pepper on a protester – praised the DPA’s internal investigative efforts, noting that officers must be removed from the patrol and other units to staff the complaints committee. He also filed a public information request for the after action report, which was denied. “We want to see it because we believe the officers used faulty bean bags and are being prosecuted, not the department,” Casaday told us. The theory, not proven, is that the pellet munitions officers shot at the protesters were hardened due to their age and poor storage, which made them more dangerous. “If it is true that the bean bags are faulty, then officers should be absolved of any wrongdoing.”
At least 16 DPA officers still face potential criminal charges related to the protests; a new grand jury, which will meet in October, is expected to review the cases presented by the Travis County District Attorney Civil Rights Unit Office. As such lawsuits – and the ongoing civil lawsuits brought by the survivors (see p.12) – will not be resolved for some time, the after action report would be valuable information for Council and the community to see and understand. . now. For example, the BOA’s recommendations for moving forward include biannual training on crowd control and ensuring that officers’ names and badge numbers are visible even when wearing tactical gear for control of people. crowds. Chief of Staff of ODA Gay Troy said the ministry would provide written responses to the recommendations at a future meeting.
“An after action report would only be truly complete if you address the issues raised today,” said a board member. Greg Casar at Monday’s meeting, like how decisions were made to use lead cartridges and ‘how come they were used to [dangerous] elevations and distances. Casar, who reviewed earlier versions of the report, added that ODA should take a “real self-reflective look at why we have ended up with so many complaints. â¦ The only way to approach these issues is to speak publicly about them. “
A version of this article appeared in print on September 24, 2021 with the title: What happened after the Black Lives Matter protests last summer? APD will not say.