Austin Police

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.

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.

Caleb Miller for KUT News

Even though it’s Monday, it’s still a “No Refusal” weekend for Austin drivers.

From 9 p.m. through 5 a.m., the Austin Police Department will ask suspected drunk drivers to take a mandatory breath test. And if drivers don't agree, police will ask for a subpoena for DWI suspects' blood.  The Austin Police Department says 23 people were arrested for DWI on Sunday.

In an effort to keep Austin’s roads safe, Capital Metro and APD have partnered to provide free Cap Metro services from 6 p.m. until 3 a.m. Buses will run on a regular schedule tonight, but will be reduced to Sunday level service on New Year’s Day. For more information, visit

sobriety test

Update: Austin Police have scheduled another “No Refusal” enforcement this holiday weekend, where a judge is on call to approve warrants for suspected drunk drivers' blood. 

KUT News checked back in with Austin DWI attorney Will Mitchell, who says that all of his advice below still stands. While the easiest solution is simply not to drink and drive, Mitchell offers the following advice to anyone pulled over: "Be quiet, don’t do field sobriety tests, don’t do a breath test, and refuse to give a sample of your blood. … Until you see a search warrant, there’s no reason for you to allow them to take your blood.”

And aside from the obvious danger, a DWI bust is still an expensive proposition. “Any number’s really arbitrary, but certainly the potential for it to run you, ten, fifteen thousand dollars is easily there.” 

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

In 2012, Austin police lost their first officer to gunfire in the line of duty in nearly 25 years.

Senior Police Officer Jaime Padron was shot and killed this April, after responding to a seemingly innocuous disturbance call at an area Walmart.

As KUT News reported in April:

When the officer arrived, police say he made contact with the suspect and the man immediately began to fight with the officer. Police say the suspect then pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and shot the officer at point blank range in the neck area.

The officer was able to radio for help. Emergency responders tried to keep him alive, but the officer died in the store.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

Dozens of boxes full of toys made their way to Austin’s Dell Children’s Hospital this morning, courtesy of Operation Blue Santa.

Santa and his reindeer could not be there since many of the kids are too sick to risk having the animals nearby. So volunteers from the Austin Police Department made sure there was enough holiday cheer to go around.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

Texas lawmakers will return to Austin Jan. 8 for the 2013 Legislative Session.

Officials with the Department of Public Safety hope lawmakers will approve salary increases for state troopers. A recent report by the State Auditor’s office found troopers are making less money than many police and sheriff’s officers across the state.

Trooper Robbie Barrera says she didn’t join the Department of Public Safety for the money.

Update:  It’s worth noting Eanes ISD briefly locked down all its buildings earlier today, in relation to the call at Barton Creek. A statement on the district’s website reads:

“While law enforcement has informed us that the incident is contained to the mall and our students are in no danger, we have taken the precaution of putting the Adult Transition Services building, Cedar Creek Elementary, Hill Country Middle School and Westlake High School on lockdown.”

The top-ranked comment on a Reddit thread discussing the Barton Creek scare is from a parent at Hill Country Middle School. “They made her scared for her life, even though they were told it was totally isolated to the mall which is like a mile away at least.” (Some language may not be safe for work.)

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Austin police have released a list of the top 20 bars its DWI arrestees had their last drinks at before getting pulled over.

Here’s the list in question. The following are the top 20 bars associated with DWI arrests, from January through the end of October:

The Austin Police Department hosted its Operation Blue Santa breakfast this morning. All proceeds will benefit the department’s Blue Santa initiative, which delivers hot meals and toys to underprivileged families each holiday season.

By all accounts it was a success: Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted this afternoon that the event raised over $190,000. And Blue Santa can use all the help it can get.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

Austin's Public Safety Commission will stay busy this evening discussing a medley of public safety topics:

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The City of Cedar Park is hosting a meet-and-greet tonight with the two finalists for Chief of Police.

Austin Police Assistant Chief Sean Mannix and Irving Police Assistant Chief Jeff Spivey are the top two out of 76 initial applicants.

According to the Hill Country News, current chief Henry Fluck gave notice in February that he would be leaving the department at the end of the year. He has served as chief since 1999.

Austin Police Dept.; Motorcade photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Brandon Daniel may be facing the death penalty for allegedly killing of Austin Police Officer Jaime Padron.

The Austin American-Statesman quotes District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg as saying seeking the death penalty for Daniel “is the right thing to do.”

Daniel was charged with capital murder in April of this year for the killing of Officer Padron at an area Wal-Mart.

Update:  The Texas Civil Rights Project wrote this letter to APD yesterday, requesting an explanation of its disproportionate pot busts within ten business days. Citing the statistics in the story below, project director Jim Harrington writes, “These facts raise serious questions, at least, as to whether APD officers are doing racial profiling or consistently exercising their discretion in favor of whites and against African Americans.”

Original Post (Nov. 10, 1:39 p.m.): Despite Austin’s progressive reputation, smoking marijuana in this city can still get you in trouble with the law. And data from the Austin Police Department shows that is more likely to happen if you are African-American.

Voters in Colorado and Washington state elected this week to legalize marijuana for recreational use. In Texas, the drug remains very much illegal. But a state law passed five years ago has resulted in thousands of people in Travis County avoiding arrest when they’re busted with small amounts of pot.

Back in 2007, State Representative Jerry Madden (R-Plano) authored a bill to give police officers the option to cite and release someone caught with less than four ounces of marijuana. 

“The reason for that was to save costs for some of our [police] departments, so that they had more people that would be available on the streets, instead of taking the time to bring very low-level offenders in and book them,” Madden said. “They were going to be released very shortly anyway.”

KUT News

Some people who live and work in downtown Austin spoke out at yesterday's Public Safety Commission meeting in support of the Austin Police Department’s so called “Public Order Initiative."

While Police Chief Art Acevedo says the zero-tolerance policy that went into effect in September is not an anti-homeless initiative… it does crack down on crime often associated with the homeless—including violations of the city’s ‘sit and lie’ ordinance.

Some have speculated that APD’s crackdown is happening because of the influx of visitors expected for Formula 1. But the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association (DANA) says it’s a long-term problem.

The Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services department is warning drivers to be on high alert for deer in the road during November and December.

These two months are what’s known as the “rut,” or deer mating season. During this time, deer can be inattentive to their surroundings and are more likely to dart out into the road and into the path of an oncoming car.

According to data released by the City of Austin and APD, there were 50 deer-involved collisions in 2011.  There have been 11 so far this year. Nationwide, research has found that approximately 200 people a year in the United States die in deer-related car accidents. Eighteen percent of all accidents involving deer occur during November. December is the third most common month for accidents involving deer.

Nathan Bernier

1. You're More Likely to Get Caught Tonight:

The Austin Police Department is enforcing a "No Refusal policy" beginning tonight at 9 and ending Thursday at 5 a.m.

That means police will conduct blood search warrants on drivers who are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving and refuse to voluntarily submit to a breathalyzer or blood test.

2. It'll Cost You:

Police say anyone found with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and could face 3 days to 6 months in jail, a one year suspension of their driver’s license and a fine of up to $2,000 for a first offense.