Monday, November 14, 2022

Mayor Pro Tem Alter Marks Release of Evaluation of Sexual Assault Investigations in Austin

The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) has released a final report on the sexual assault investigation process in Austin, including why a number of reported cases did not lead to an arrest. This comprehensive, third-party review of cases from 2012-2020 is the result of a 2019 resolution authored by Mayor Pro Tem (then Council Member) Alison Alter in consultation with survivors and advocates. The evaluation was conducted in conjunction with the Women’s Law Project (WLP) and the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW). 
 
 “As a woman, a mother, and a policy maker, I believe the City has a responsibility to learn from our past failures– the DNA backlog, a high number of “exceptionally cleared” rape cases, and an under-resourced sex crimes unit”, said Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter. “This report provides clear guidance on how we can improve our sexual assault response system in a survivor-focused way. I believe that how APD and the City build on this analysis will determine our ability to restore trust with the community.”
 
The evaluation recommends a series of basic improvements that APD can make– formalizing training for officers joining the Sex Crimes Unit so that they’re better prepared before they take sexual assault cases; requiring detectives to try more than just once to contact a survivor before suspending a case; involving the Victim Services division in training, policy making, and response; providing detectives with laptops so they can access files and cases when in the field. Many of these are simple, easy changes that can help detectives better investigate reports and provide the service and attentiveness survivors deserve; many are already under way. The report details a number of further process improvements informed by best practices nation-wide and APD is now tasked with implementing these recommendations. 
 
The PERF report also identified the need for new financial resources, many of which Mayor Pro Tem Alter secured during this summer’s budget adoption process. These included funding for vehicles for APD’s sex crimes and victim services units, an increase to the victim emergency fund, a dedicated analyst for the sex crimes unit, an annual case review, additional training funds, and more. 
 
“I am eager to implement the additional recommendations in the final report,” Alter added. “Austin can become a model for other cities seeking to prevent and improve their responses to sexual assault, but we must keep listening and we must be committed to the systemic changes identified. We owe that to the survivors who fought for so long to be heard.”

City of Austin Statement on Labor Negotiations with Police Union

The City's Labor Relations Office has been negotiating with the Austin Police Association (APA) for almost nine months over a new labor ...