Austin’s Human Rights Commission could take action tonight on recommending a “preservation of life” standard in the Austin Police Department’s Response to Resistance Policy.
The ACLU has been pushing for the police department to include language in their policy that would basically say deadly force should be used as a last resort.
Human Rights Commissioner Elizabeth Brenner says the commission talked about adding the language back in 2010 but that the issue is front and center again because of recent, deadly officer-involved shootings.
Right now, APD’s policy is that officers are only justified in using deadly force when an officer believes it’s necessary to protect themselves or others from death or serious injury.
APD Assistant Chief Sean Mannix says the preservation of life standard is already part of APD's overall policy so he thinks the change is unnecessary.
“We don’t change policy just to be changing policy. Our general orders and standard operating procedures, there are guidelines to help guide our officers and so we’re not going to do it as a feel-good measure," Mannix says.
Brenner sponsored the item. She says this change would take APD’s current policy a few steps further.
“Basically including language that deadly force is an act of last resort and will be used only when other reasonable alternatives are impractical or fail," Brenner says. "And also incorporating a statement saying that officers will plan ahead and consider alternatives that will reduce the possibility that they need to use deadly force.”
If the commission decides to recommend that APD include a “preservation of life” standard, the measure would then go before the city council.
In March, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told KUT that the department uses deadly force 50 percent less than the national average. But the Justice Department did conduct a probe into the APD’s use of force policies following instances of officers shooting suspects under questionable circumstances. The probe did not find reasonable cause to believe that APD had engaged in a pattern or practice that violates the Constitution or U.S. laws