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New reports address racial disparities, inequities within Austin Police and its training academy

One of the reports recommends the City continues to suspend cadet classes until an equity-driven action plan "that reforms and rebuilds" is implemented.

AUSTIN, Texas — Two new reports released this week addressed racial and gender inequities and disparities within the Austin Police Department and shared recommendations to create an "anti-racist institutional culture."

The reports, released by Round Rock-based equity consulting firm Joyce James Consulting and The Peace Mill Research and Communications, were shared in a Dec. 29 City memo.

The Peace Mill report included the following seven APD divisions as part of its equity assessment: Training, Recruiting, Data Planning, Internal Affairs, Finance, Human Resources and Victim Services.

Among some of its findings within the Training and Recruiting divisions, the report found disparities in academy graduation rates, with nearly 82% of white male cadets graduating versus nearly 49% of Black male cadets. Black cadets also accounted for roughly 5% of all graduates and "were more likely to leave the academy or sustain an injury than any other racial group."

The report also found that while the department's Recruiting division has hired someone to "address racial disparities in the recruitment process, the number of Black, Latinx, and women cadets recruited into APD’s cadet remains glaringly low."

Additionally, former cadets who were interviewed by the third-party evaluator said "training staff subjected them to hours of grueling physical and psychological stress drills, refusing water to dehydrated cadets and engaging in other dangerous practices." 

For these reasons, the report recommends the City continues to suspend its cadet classes until an equity-driven action plan "that reforms and rebuilds" APD's Training division can be implemented.

"Amid numerous valid concerns over secretive testing practices, unsafe physical tests that violate APD’s own policies, racist and sexist language by instructors, physical abuse by instructors, forced resignations, suspicious injuries, inequitable employment outcomes, and an increasingly toxic training culture driven by a militarized “us versus them” mindset, City and APD leaders should rebuild the training academy and implement sweeping structural reforms to the training division. To honor the City and APD’s commitment to a safer Austin for all Austinites, these reforms should include measurable changes to the culture, curriculum, staffing and leadership in APD’s Training division."

   

The Joyce James Consulting report reviewed the following seven reports and documents to help further identify racial inequities: 

  • Austin Police Department Independent Investigation Fact Investigation (referred to as the “Tatum Report”)
  • Analysis of Austin Police Department’s Racial Profiling Report,
    January 2020
  • The Science of Policing Equity
  • Austin Police Department Annual Racial Profiling Report (Years
    2006-2017)
  • Community Policing Advancement in Austin
  • The APD Response to the Joint Report
  • APD Training Academy Review and Strategic Plan

Its recommendations include: 

  • Develop an understanding of the history of institutionalized racism and its impact on poor communities and communities of color
  • Utilize training defined by anti-racist principles and embed that in cadet academy and leadership development
  • Create a clearly defined roadmap with appropriate metrics, benchmarks, and milestones that define and gauge progress towards antiracism
  • Demonstrate transparency in regularly communicating with internal and external stakeholders

In response to the release of the reports, the Austin Police Department sent KVUE the following statement:

The Austin Police Department is reviewing the findings and recommendations included in the reports recently released by the Equity Office and Joyce James Consulting. We strive to be an organization that promotes diversity, inclusion and equity for all populations. The Department will continue efforts to make improvements to policies, practices, and training that allow everyone in Austin to feel safe and protected.

We are actively taking steps toward addressing internal and external inequities in APD policing. We remain committed to doing the hard work necessary to ensure that Department values and actions align with those of the community we serve. We will continue to work collaboratively with the Equity Office to implement a strategic Equity Action Plan.”

City of Austin Chief Equity Officer Brion Oaks also released the following statement:

"The completion of these assessments is an important milestone in our process to identify the root causes of cultural and systemic biases within APD which contribute to policing inequalities within our community. 

 The Equity Office will follow up with APD in the New Year to discuss the next steps of this equity assessment process. This will involve developing a plan to address areas featured in the assessments, including the future of cadet classes."

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