The Department of Justice has closed its investigation into the Austin Police Department. The investigation began back in 2007 after the Austin Chapter of the NAACP and the Texas Civil Rights Project filed a federal complaint over use of force against minorities.
The Justice Department said it did not find reasonable cause to believe that APD has engaged in a pattern or practice that violates the Constitution or U.S. laws. At a press conference Monday morning, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo called the report one of the highlights of his career.
“Today we can say with a great deal of pride that the Austin Police Department has been given a clean bill of health and I would just ask you as community leaders to not scream out there’s a problem unless there truly is a problem because it creates challenges, it creates a lot of challenges for the entire community and is not productive,” Acevedo said.
APD has made changes to its policies over the years based on federal recommendations. The DOJ had four more recommendations before the case closed. NAACP President Nelson Linder is especially optimistic about one recommendation that APD adopt a system to identify officers early on who show a tendency to violate policy.
“For example officers like Michael Olsen, who shot and killed Kevin Brown in 2007, Olsen had a history of critical incidents, of being overly aggressive and for the most part was never held accountable. He was caught on tape downtown beating up a gentlemen named Jeffrey Thornton," Linder told KUT News. "So I think if you look at the officer’s history and personnel files, we’re saying if you look at that history, examine all the incidents you can catch patterns that might lead to future violence.”
Police Chief Acevedo says the department is already working on the DOJ's latest recommendations.