The Austin Police Department (APD) released its After Action Report regarding the summer 2020 protests. The report assesses APD's strengths and opportunities for improvement and reflects the changes made to department policy, training, and structure.
During the summer of 2020, a series of protests took place in downtown Austin that mirrored national demonstrations. These protests, a direct result of the deaths of George Floyd and Mike Ramos, changed from mostly peaceful crowds into violent gatherings, which escalated into criminal acts and injured protest participants and officers, and destroyed property. The protests outside police headquarters, which led to officers' direct response and mobilization, were unlike any this city or department had seen.
Consistent with the department's commitment to continuous improvement, APD's Executive Staff initiated an internal administrative review of these events. An After Action Report (AAR) is a critical tool to analyze an event, the response, and the subsequent results. The report also outlines a roadmap for safe and effective responses in the future. This formalized process and information allows APD to consider multiple viewpoints regarding the complete picture of events and create a shared understanding of what occurred to help implement improvements moving forward.
"I feel confident in releasing this report and its inclusion of implementation steps for each focus area," said Chief Joseph Chacon. "We have accomplished much in the past two years and fully recognize we have much more to achieve."
The review and analysis of the protests from 2020 have been ongoing since the summer of 2020. From the beginning of the protests and riots, APD has been working to identify problem situations and responses so that more effective strategies could be employed. It's essential to note that APD recognizes that the less-lethal beanbag munition did not perform as expected, which resulted in unintended injuries. Once this became apparent during the 2020 protests, APD leadership prohibited using less-lethal beanbag shotguns. This action demonstrated the department's ability to adapt to evolving circumstances.
Additionally, Department employees worked relentlessly under arduous conditions enduring substantial abuse. This dedication and professionalism demonstrated a steadfast commitment to service and public safety.
The AAR also identifies 17 critical areas of analysis and lists problem identification, findings, recommendations, and subsequent implementation of improvements. Key areas the department has concentrated improvement on include:
- De-escalation Techniques and Training: APD has revamped its training efforts to ensure that all officers are thoroughly and regularly trained in effective de-escalation techniques for various situations. These techniques include active listening and clear verbal communication, maintaining a safe distance; explanations of actions needed and any consequences; and securing additional resources. This training occurs in cadet training as part of our new Academy model and during in-service training with our current officers.
- Improvements to Mobile Field Force: APD's deployment of department resources highlighted a need for regular and ongoing MFF, crowd management, and riot control training for all officers. The clarified process and training were highlighted when in early May 2022, large-scale protests occurred in Austin related to the Supreme Court decision affecting Roe v. Wade. APD was poised and prepared to effectively support the citizens of Austin in their efforts to participate in safe demonstrations free of property destruction and violence.
- Training for an integrated response within various APD units: In the early days of the 2020 protests, all APD personnel were on tactical alert and required a great deal of collaboration with the Department's Special Response Team (SRT) and with one another. Not everyone was familiar with SRT's responsibilities, duties, procedures, or other specialized units, making a coordinated response more challenging. APD now conducts integrated, Department-wide training across the various specialized response units. These collaborative joint operations training allow the different tactical response units to familiarize themselves with the roles and capabilities of the other units and be better prepared for a thorough and efficient rollout of MFF in the future.
APD has already implemented several of the needed changes identified in the AAR. As APD continues to serve and protect this community, the department is confident that our efforts to work collaboratively with the Austin community will improve the lives of all Austinites.
To see the full report, click here.