Goal

Reduce the use and type of weapons, technology, and equipment to minimize, and in some cases, prohibit the policies and practices that are considered deadly force.   

This reform is defined by City Council Resolution 20200611-095.

 

Direction

The City Manager and the Office of Police Oversight (OPO) shall review the Austin Police Department (APD) general orders on weapons, equipment, technology, and enforcement policies and practices. This resolution also delays the July 2020 police cadet class. 

 

Deliverables and Outcome

A public report, developed with community input in concert with the City Manager and Office of Police Oversight (OPO) that provides recommendations on less harmful or lethal alternatives to use of force, use of equipment, technology and weapons in encounters with the community.  

 

Status

Complete Actions

These elements of the reform resolution are considered complete, as of October 2021. 

  1. Delay July 2020 Cadet class
  2. Recommend amendments to General Orders on how to better define “resistance” and alternative tactics and tools

 

In-Progress Actions

These elements of the reform resolution are considered in progress, as of July 2021.

  1. Revise APD General Orders to conform with the resolution directives 
  2. Report back to the City Council and relevant Council committees on proposed General Order amendments for feedback
  3. Revise APD General Orders to prohibit use of tear gas

 

Pending Actions

These elements of the reform resolutions are pending, as of October 2021. The reasons they are pending range from needed work with other divisions, need for legal review or policy development, need for community input and need for input from the City Council, the Council Public Safety Committee or the Public Safety Commission.

  1. Revise APD General Orders regarding use of force
  2. Revise APD General Orders regarding use of impact munitions
  3. Revise APD General Orders regarding use of bean bag rounds
  4. Revise APD General Orders regarding use of force incorporating de-escalation
  5. Revise APD General Orders regarding requiring officers to stop improper or excessive use of force

 

Timeline

October 2021

On October 13, 2021, the Office of Police Oversight (OPO) released a report titled Community Feedback and Final Recommendations for 8 Can't Wait Policy Initiatives.

The report, as directed by City Council, outlines recommended changes to the use-of-force policies in the Austin Police Department (APD) policy manual and shares community feedback gathered by OPO on those policies. Key takeaways from the feedback include:

Restrict shooting at moving vehicles

  • Many community members who supported allowing shooting at moving vehicles were concerned about limiting officers’ tactical options. Some of these same community members also believed that officers are trained on this tactic when, in fact, they are not.

Exhausting all alternatives before using deadly force

  • 52% of respondents said police should use all available alternatives before using deadly force.
  • Community members in favor of changing APD policy expressed a need for more predictability in interactions with the police, particularly for people with mental health conditions who are at risk for unnecessary 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.
  • Some community members in support of a duty-to-intervene policy expressed concern about protecting officers who do the reporting or intervene.

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds

  • 53% of respondents agreed that chokeholds and strangleholds should be banned outright.
  • Community members who supported an outright ban reported that chokeholds involve too much risk of becoming unintentionally lethal, that this tactic instills fear in the community, and that there should be more training on alternative procedures.
  • Many responses in support of allowing the use of chokeholds were based on the assumption that APD officers are trained on this tactic when, in fact, they are not. A minority of community members also believed that chokeholds and strangleholds are not actually deadly.

Warn before shooting

  • 55% of respondents believed that policy must specify how an officer should give a warning before shooting.
  • Community members who supported changing APD policy said that the current policy doesn’t account for situations in which a person may not hear or understand an officer’s warning, including those who do not understand English or are living with a mental health condition.

The report concludes OPO’s three-phase approach to facilitating the rewrite of APD’s General Orders related to six use-of-force policy topics: restricting shooting at moving vehicles, exhausting all alternatives before using deadly force, de-escalation, duty to intervene, banning chokeholds and strangleholds, and warning before shooting. Read the full report.

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.

June 2021

144th Reimagined Cadet Class Now Underway

One hundred recruits started their journey toward becoming police officers on Monday June 7th as the Austin Police Department kicked off its 144th cadet class. To learn more, please read the full press release on the RPS blog.

Reimagined APD Cadet Training Academy on Track to Start on June 7th

The Blueprint to a new Academy called for the completion of 23 specific tasks, of which 17 have been completed, three are expected to be completed by the 7th, and three have begun/will continue throughout the new Academy. For a status report by task, read the full memorandum here.

 

May 2021

APD Training Academy Final Assessment Report Presented to City Council

The City Manager has delivered a final report detailing an in-depth assessment of the APD Training Academy to City Council. The report, authored by independent consultant Kroll and Associates, is expansion of a preliminary analysis released in March 2021. Findings and recommendations were presented at the May 4, 2021 City Council work session. Read the report.

Office of Police Oversight Community Event, APD Use of Force

The Office of Police Oversight hosted a community event to review Austin Police Department use of force policies, collect input, and make new recommendations. Read more here.

April 2021

Renewed Commitment and Collaboration between Austin Police Department and Office of Police Oversight

On April 23 the Austin Police Department and the Office of Police Oversight (OPO), outlined a renewed commitment to improve the working relationship between the two departments and the steps each will take to facilitate a comprehensive and impartial review of complaints and policy recommendations. Read more.

Report: Redefining “Resistance” and Considering Alternative Tactics and Tools to Prevent the Need for Lethal and Less-Lethal Munitions

The Office of Police Oversight released the "Redefining Resistance and Considering Alternatives Report on April 15 in response to City Council Resolution 95. The report outlines research findings and recommendations for amendments to the Austin Police Department General Orders to better define what constitutes “resistance” and alternative tactics and tools that can be used by officers to prevent the need for lethal or less lethal munitions. Read the report.

 

January 2021

As a part of the Reimagining Public Safety process, City Council directed the City Manager to direct OPO to facilitate a rewrite of the APD policy manual, known as the General Orders. The scope of the rewrite covers all policies, including search and seizure, body-worn cameras, dash cameras, mental health response, discipline, bias, language, and courtesy. 

In January 2021, OPO accomplished a critical first step in the rewrite process by releasing a publication outlining policy change recommendations to six of APD’s use-of-force policies. This publication was written through the lens of Campaign Zero’s “8 Can’t Wait” initiative, which advocates for more restrictive policies to reduce use of deadly force by police. At the center of 8 Can’t Wait are the following recommendations:

  1. Restrict shooting at moving vehicles;
  2. Exhaust all alternatives before using deadly force;
  3. Require de-escalation;
  4. Impose a duty to intervene in cases of improper or excessive use of force;
  5. Require comprehensive reporting of uses of force;
  6. Ban chokeholds and strangleholds.

OPO’s report also outlined the phased approach it will use to facilitate the General Order rewrite process. The approach includes the following three phases:

  • Phase I - Conduct a preliminary analysis of APD’s current policy language and make the analysis publicly available on the OPO website.
  • Phase II - Work with community partners and stakeholders to gather public input on proposed changes to APD’s policies. Outreach will include events, surveys, and other community engagement methods.
  • Phase III - OPO will submit policy recommendations and community feedback to APD. APD, in consultation with the City Manager’s Office, will review the recommendations and modify as appropriate prior to final incorporation. APD will subsequently bring the proposed modified General Orders to Council for feedback.

 

October 2020

A formal policy change to APD's general orders about restricting the use of tear gas is being drafted and will be sent to Council for the awareness and input. If discussion is necessary, it will be placed on the November Public Safety Committee agenda.  

 

September 2020

  • 2020 Cadet Classes are canceled, classes for 2021 are to be determined.
  • The Police Chief has given direction to the department regarding restricting the use of tear gas. A formal policy change to the department’s general orders is being drafted. 
  • The OPO is researching best practices and terminology related to use of force, response to resistance, and alternative tactics.

 

June 2020

Council adopted Resolution 20200611-095 on June 11, 2020.