Austin Police

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:

bluesanta.org

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.

flickr.com/esqenzo

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. 

flickr.com/fiverweed

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.

flickr.com/TooFarNorth

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.

YouTube

Austin police say no charges will be filed against a driver who police fired on on Sixth Street over the weekend.

As KUT News previously reported, shortly after 2 a.m. early Sunday morning an Austin police officer opened fire on a car that the officer said was driving straight at him after hitting two bystanders.

YNN Austin quoted police chief Art Acevedo’s description of the scene: "This person, for unknown reasons, decided to rapidly accelerate to the extent that she left acceleration skid mark on the pavement … And not only drove toward civilian victims – and struck civilian victims – but also drove toward the officer and refused to stop until shots rang out."

But this afternoon, police announced no charges would be filed against the unnamed motorist, whom they described as fleeing the scene quickly out of concern for her safety.

flickr.com/webhostingreview

Law enforcement agencies across Central Texas are cracking down on drivers who ignore the state’s “move over” law.

When emergency responders are stopped on the roadway, drivers are required to move over a lane to pass or to slow down to 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit. If the speed limit is below 25 mph, drivers are required to slow to 5 mph.

For the next three weeks, Austin Police Department officers and law enforcement officers from at 20 other departments say they will will target drivers who illegally pass emergency vehicles.

With woolly traffic expected this weekend, city officials are reminding Austin drivers that texting while driving is banned under city law.

Texting while driving is a class C misdemeanor, which means offenders could face up to a $500 fine. And smart phone users should know that all "electronic messaging" is banned. That means no email, no Facebook, no ACL Festival iPhone app, and especially no Words With Friends behind the wheel.

Police Chief Art Acevedo asked drivers to be especially aware of pedestrians around Zilker Park this weekend, which, of course, is hosting the Austin City Limits Music Festival this weekend. Acevedo says crashes are likely to happen when texters look up from their phones and overcorrect.

To remind drivers not to text, Acevedo sported an orange thumb band, and encouraged others to do the same. 

Tonight will mark the 29th annual National Night Out.  And all over Texas, citizens will be turning their porch light on and spending the evening meeting with neighbors, police officers and public safety responders.

National Night Out is designed to heighten crime prevention and awareness, strengthen neighborhood bonds and, most importantly, send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back against crime.

Austin is marking National Night Out with an event at The Domain this evening. The event will start at 5 p.m. and representatives from the Austin Police Department, Travis County Sheriff’s Department and Austin Energy will be there to help educate people about crime prevention. Along with information, food and games will be available to help build the neighborly spirit.

Interested in learning more about National Night Out? You can visit the site for the National Association of Town Watch or Austin Police's National Night Out page.

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