Chief Art Acevedo is ending his nine and a half year tenure as the head of the Austin Police Department. Acevedo is going to lead the Houston Police Department, according to a statement from Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
Acevedo’s time in Austin has been marked by increased engagement and outreach with minority communities and an increase in disciplinary action taken against officers. But it wasn’t without controversy. Acevedo made national news for an insensitive response to an APD jaywalking arrest in 2014 and frequently butted heads with the head of the police union, Ken Cassaday – most recently after firing Officer Geoffrey Freeman after the shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old David Joseph.
Acevedo arrived in Austin in 2007, after his predecessor Stan Knee left the department in 2006.
This isn't the first time Acevedo's been courted by other departments. Just last year he was offered a job to head up San Antonio's department. In 2010, he was being eyed to lead the Dallas Police Department.
At a press conference today with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Acevedo said he believes “the timing is right” for him to make the move, but that he’s eager to join the Houston Police Department.
“I really look forward to the challenge of working in a city, meeting with these elected officials, where they get the big picture and where they think big,” he said. “Let’s get ready to move, because HPD, here in the City of Houston, you’re going to see some great things. And, so, I look forward to the challenge and I really want to thank you for the opportunity and the trust.”
In his statement earlier this morning, Austin Mayor Steve Adler praised Acevedo’s ability as a “world-class” police chief:
Losing Art Acevedo is a huge deal, and replacing him will be a daunting task in part because he gave so much of himself to his job and his community. But Austin is a safe city with a strong police force, and we’ll have talented applicants to take his place. We’ll shortly have a new city manager and a new police chief, and this gives Austin a unique opportunity to enter a new era in our history.
Former Travis County sheriff and current Austin Police Monitor Margot Frasier also lamented Acevedo's move to Houston.
Austin is losing a good chief. Chief Acevedo and I have enjoyed a good relationship even though we have disagreed at times," Frasier said in a statement. "The Austin Police Department is more transparent and accountable due to his service. I wish him well."
Civil rights activist Chas Moore with the Austin Justice Coalition says he was disappointed by the news Acevedo was leaving. Moore worked with Acevedo earlier this year after the shooting of David Joseph earlier this year, even appearing with him at a press conference announcing an expedited investigation into the shooting,
“The fact that he can willingly take criticism from the community – but, at the same token, sit down with community members and work toward a better policing model – I think that’s pretty remarkable,” Moore said.
Austin’s interim city manager Elaine Hart says an interim police chief could be named as soon as tomorrow, and that the city is looking internally at leaders within the Austin Police Department. Replacing the last police chief took the City of Austin about a year.
This story has been updated throughout.