Austin Police

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin Police Chief says an incident this week in which police officers fatally shot a man was not a mental health call.

Chief Art Acevedo is responding to the Texas Civil Rights Project calling for the city to appoint an independent professional consultant to help police handle incidents involving people with mental illness.

Here’s how Chief Acevedo characterizes this week’s incident, in which a man was shot after pointing a shotgun at APD officers.

“It was not a mental health call," Acevedo said. "It was a public safety threat call, where the, the absolute safety of our residents was at risk. The Austin Police Department received information that the decedent in that case was suicidal and homicidal and threatening to hurt others.”

The Texas Civil Rights Project is calling for more involvement from the Austin Police Monitor’s Office in assessing calls involving use of force.

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Update: Austin Police have identified the man killed by police last night as 54-year-old Herbert Babelay.

Original Story (April 24, 8:23 a.m.): Four Austin Police Officers involved in a fatal shooting last night are on paid administrative leave. The officers shot and killed a man who they say pointed a rifle at them.

It happened in southeast Austin – in the 700 block of Valdez. Police were called to that address at 8:40 p.m. on a report of a homicidal or suicidal man.

KUT News

The Travis County District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday afternoon that a grand jury is not issuing felony indictments against Antonio Buehler or the Austin Police Officer who arrested him.

Buehler was arrested early on New Year’s Day of last year after saying APD officers were being overly aggressive with a woman accused of interfering with arrest.      

Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Austin Police Department is recommending the city hire as many as 250 more officers by 2017 to meet population growth. The suggested number came from a study by the Police Executive Research Forum.

Austin follows a rough ratio of two officers per thousand residents as a staffing guideline. Currently there’s just over 1,700 APD officers meeting the staffing guideline. 

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

Austin Police are giving more attention this weekend to the Rundberg Lane area of North Austin, conducting what they call a 100 percent enforcement initiative on Friday and Saturday nights between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Officers will watch for all crimes, of course, including traffic offenses, but will give particular attention to drugs, prostitution and gang-related crimes. Austin Police Lt. Allen McClure says the goal is a reduction in crime in an area with a disproportionate amount of it.

Christopher Ebdon/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/av8pix/6861164814/

Update: The Austin City Council has approved a $1.17 million contract with Metro Aviation to outfit APD's new chopper.

The council had already approved the purchase of a new helicopter, but this morning the council approved a proposal to equip the chopper with accessories, including firefighting equipment. You can read more below. 

Original Post (March 19): A new helicopter for Austin Police could be equipped with thermal imaging, a search-light, night vision goggles, water buckets and other accessories, if council gives the green light to spend the cash.

flickr.com/rutlo

The Austin Police Department wants to curb aggressive driving on Interstate 35. Starting Sunday, March 17, APD and other law enforcement agencies will increase their operations along the I-35 corridor. The crackdown will continue until Saturday, March 23.

APD says they’ll be looking for those who speed, tailgate, pass emergency vehicles, and fail to signal or wear a seat belt.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Good morning. Austin's in for partly cloudy weather with a seasonal high in the 70s, according to the National Weather Service.

Lead Story: There’s a new two-year labor contract for Austin bus drivers.

McDonald Transit operates about 70 percent of Capital Metro’s fixed route bus service.  It has signed a two-year labor contract with Amalgamated Transit Union 1091, which represents the drivers and mechanics, after being ratified with a union vote of 91 percent.

KUT News

Good morning. The National Weather Service says a Red Flag Warning in effect until 8 p.m. today. The windy, dry conditions mean a high risk of fire in Central Texas. The Travis County Fire Marshal is asking everyone to be careful and to avoid doing things like mowing, welding and outdoor cooking.

Lead Story: The nation is three days into those across-the-board federal budget cuts called the sequester.  And the Secretary of Homeland Security says some of the nation’s bigger airports are already seeing security-line waits up 150 to 200 percent because of immediate cuts to overtime pay.

Joy Diaz/KUT News

This morning's shooting death of a North Austin man is under investigation. 

At a press conference earlier today Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said it all started at 7:23 this morning, when the deceased man, who has yet to be identified by name, called 911 saying he had shot a pitbull that attacked him.

Erika Aguilar, KUT News

The Austin Police Department is taking steps to improve the Rundberg area as part of the Restore Rundberg Project. APD is conducting a Vehicle Abatement initiative: tagging and towing vehicles that are in violation of city ordinances and state laws.

It might seem trivial for police to address crime with efforts that target illegally parked cars, but University of Texas at Austin Associate Professor of Sociology and Consultant to the Restore Rundberg Project David Kirk says that it addresses a bigger sociological issue known as the Broken Window theory.

Marissa Barnett, KUT News

Some Austin Police Department patrol cars are starting to use a new vehicle-locating system today called StarChase.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says the units will only be used during suspect vehicle pursuits. The device, he says, will allow police officers to track suspects without engaging in high-speed chases and will hopefully avoid accidents and fatalities. 

City of Austin

The backlog in forensic DNA evidence in Austin is so serious that local judges and the Travis County district attorney called the mayor and City Council members to discuss the situation. Then they followed up with letters.

On Tuesday, the council agreed to fund three new jobs for forensic chemists. But the embarrassment prompted council member Laura Morrison to promote a new idea in dealing with the city’s forensic needs.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

Update: In a protracted and somewhat testy meeting, the Austin City Council budgeted and allocated the sum of the city’s $14 million budget surplus.

The day’s big winner? Affordable housing initiatives, which were earmarked for $10 million. Wildfire fuel mitigation received a little over $1 million, the Child Inc. after-school program received $557,000, and a pilot program for 24 hour patrol of the Hike & Bike Trail received $350,000. You can view a complete list of the council’s actions.

flickr.com/kevharb

As people prepare to celebrate Mardi Gras, the Austin Police Department has declared a "no-refusal" for Fat Tuesday.

During no-refusal actions, officers can obtain blood search warrants on suspects who refuse to willingly provide a breath sample or cooperate with a blood test. Another Mardi Gras no-refusal action was in place over the weekend, and APD said 18 people were arrested under the initiative.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

The Austin City Council could decide today whether to start a pilot program aimed at keeping some hike and bike trails open 24 hours a day.

The proposal by council member Chris Riley has little support from his peers because it comes with the hefty price tag: a little over $3 million a year for extra police patrols. But whether it goes forward or not, the program is making the city think about how it will patrol trails in the future.

flickr.com/mirsasha

For almost 10 years, traffic deaths were relatively low in Austin. Then last year they spiked. Now two city council members want a study to look into why so many people died on Austin’s roads in 2012.

Austin City Council Member Laura Morrison is certain that population growth cannot be the reason for so many traffic deaths. At least, not the only reason.  “We got to figure out why,” Morrison says. “That spike and that increase is actually a trend that we are seeing nationwide. So, I suspect there’s something going on much more generally across the nation that our increase might be related to.”

American Judicature Society

The Austin Police Department has announced some changes to its suspect lineup procedures.

APD investigators must now present photographs and live lineups sequentially to all adult victims and witnesses. This means investigators are now required to present each photograph or individual one at a time to a witness during a lineup – not all at once.

“We are not interested in wrongfully accusing or convicting somebody that is innocent,” Chief Art Acevedo said today at a press conference announcing the change. “It is not the fabric of this department. We’d rather go with zero arrests than arrest the wrong person.”

Michael Stravato, Texas Tribune

Good morning. The National Weather Service says we can expect cloudy and cool weather today before a storm system moves in tonight bringing  chances for rain and, yes, even snow.

Swearing-in day: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz will be sworn into office today. Tea Party favorite Cruz won decisively over well-funded and politically connected Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst last year. Other congressional freshman being sworn in today include former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams and former Texas House member Pete Gallego.

flickr.com/jakes_world

It’s the second day of the year and Austin already has two traffic fatalities.

An Austin man and his 13 year-old son died in a motorcycle crash yesterday. Neither was wearing a helmet even though Texas law requires anyone under 21 to wear a helmet.

People over 21 have to maintain a certain level of health insurance or they have to have taken a motorcycle safety course to ride without a helmet legally. Before 1997, all motorcycle riders had to wear helmets.

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