Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Community members support recommended changes to APD use-of-force policies



Office of Police Oversight issues policy recommendations to Austin Police Department based on community feedback

The Office of Police Oversight (OPO) released a new report featuring feedback from community members on the Austin Police Department's use-of-force policies. The Community Feedback and Final Recommendations for 8 Can't Wait Policy Initiatives report includes community feedback on proposed changes to the Austin Police Department's (APD) use-of-force policies. The policies are related to restricting shooting at moving vehicles, exhausting all alternatives before using deadly force, de-escalation, duty to intervene, warning before shooting, and banning chokeholds and strangleholds.

Read the report here.

"Far too many of APD's policies are unclear and unaligned with national best practices in policing," said OPO Director Farah Muscadin. "Our goal was to provide an opportunity for community members to share their concerns about APD's use of force policies and better align policies with community expectations and best practices."

OPO implemented a community engagement campaign to gather feedback on APD's current use-of-force policies. There were more than 1,400 responses gathered from community members through a survey and a series of virtual meetings. Community feedback was then compiled and analyzed to develop insights that were included in the report.

The community feedback on the policy recommendations include:

Exhausting all alternatives before using deadly force  

  • 52% of respondents said police should use all available alternatives before using deadly force.  

De-escalation 

  • 61% of respondents said that policies should acknowledge or address factors that could affect someone's ability to follow an officer's orders, such as a disability, a mental health condition, or fear. 

Duty to intervene

  • 80% of respondents said that any officers who witness improper or excessive use of force by any other officer and do not interfere should be required to report the full circumstances of the incident.   

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds

  • 53% of respondents agreed that chokeholds and strangleholds should be banned outright. 

In June 2020, City Council passed a series of resolutions aimed at restricting the use of force by law enforcement. As part of those resolutions, the City Manager directed OPO to facilitate a rewrite of the Austin Police Department (APD) policy manual, known as the General Orders. The rewrite will cover all policies, including those surrounding issues like search and seizure, body-worn cameras, dashboard cameras, mental health response, discipline, bias, language, and courtesy. The City Manager also directed OPO to issue recommendations on use-of-force policies. 

APD, with support from the City Manager's Office, will review OPO's final recommendations before incorporating them into the General Orders. APD will bring changes to the General Orders to City Council for feedback before they are implemented, as established in Resolution 95.  

About the Office of Police Oversight
The mission of the Office of Police Oversight (OPO) is to provide impartial oversight of the Austin Police Department's conduct, practices, and policies to enhance accountability, inform the public to increase transparency, and create sustainable partnerships throughout the community. To learn more, visit atxpoliceoversight.org 

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