Austin Police

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.

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 capmetro.org.

sobriety test
flickr.com/jmsmith000

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:

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