Austin (KXAN) – The city’s newly-appointed assistant police chief is the youngest by a full two years among a group of senior executive officers leading the department. And at 44, Jason Dusterhoft’s personnel record shows a stack of commendations and two disciplinary actions from early in his time with the City of Austin.
Dusterhoft’s career with Austin Police dates back to January 1995 and has centered on the downtown area.
Among 19 commendations and awards:
- assisting in drug, sex assault, robbery and kidnapping investigations 1996 – 2002
- for detective work in the mugging of a 79-year-old woman in 2002
- for meeting with the community about drug problems in 2008
- Hazardous Deployment Ribbon for service during and after the Bastrop Wildfires, 2013
Prior to joining APD, Dusterhoft served honorably in the U.S. Air Force, a document shows.
More recently, he received APD’s Lifesaving Medal after his father in-law suffered a major heart attack. Dusterhoft performed CPR for 15 minutes until medics arrived.
Bumps in the road
Asst. Chief Dusterhoft’s policing career got off to promising start when he received three commendations in 1996 alone. Later in 1996, on the job just shy of two years, the chief at the time, Elizabeth Watson, essentially fired Dusterhoft for not reporting another officer he assigned to a security post had accepted money from a civilian security guard. A labor arbitrator’s ruling shows that guard took money from parking patrons and wanted to share it.
The assigned officer, who was working an event off-duty tried to give the money back, the records show. But an internal affairs investigation was launched and Dusterhoft was the only officer disciplined.
Dusterhoft successfully appealed the firing and returned to the job after a 45-day suspension, records show.
He spent five more days off the job in 2001 after a disciplinary memo shows he asked a patrol officer to give a friend driving a vehicle with a broken headlight a ‘break’ during a traffic stop. Dusterhoft argued during a failed appeal attempt that was only one of several options he suggested, including coming to pick up his friend.
Rise to the top
Personnel records show the suspensions now 12 and 19 years ago, appear to have had the effect of refocussing a young Dusterhoft and reignited his commitment to upfront police work. He subsequently received two commendations for supporting officers’ families during Police Memorials. He also received internal recognition for mediating problems between a married APD couple.
By 2008 Dusterhoft was wearing a lieutenant’s bar focusing his energies on developing APD’s Leadership Command College – a program that continues to this day and has the goal of defining a senior officer’s role to help them avoid procedural mistakes and act more decisively in the field, an APD spokesperson says.
By 2011 he had risen to commander, earning kudos from Asst. Chief Brian Manley who wrote at the time Dusterhoft is “a true asset” and “a natural leader among his peers.”
Eventually he would head up the downtown Austin sector known as “George.” Leading up to that time, crime was on the rise along with the number of drug dealers police say were interacting with the city’s vulnerable homeless population.
In August 2013, KXAN reported police statistics showing violent crime in George sector had fallen to levels not seen in 12 years. Cmdr. Dusterhoft’s solutions included sweep operations called Public Order Initiatives that targeted known drug dealers and petty criminals where arrest warrants were issued by the dozen. Later, an operation to boost officer patrols by temporarily bringing in officers from outside sectors is credited by downtown business leaders as playing a major role in hastening that decline.
Public Safety Commission member Mike Levy echoes that sentiment:
“This is a guy when community members meet him, they know he’s honest and can can be trusted. (He) will build great bridges for the (Austin Police) Department,” he told KXAN.
Eye to the future
Dusterhoft’s new role as Asst. Chief will focus on special events around downtown and Central Austin. That’s timely in the wake of the deadly South By Southwest tragedy where a man plowed past police barricades and through a crowd of festival-goers, killing four and injuring numerous others.
Other downtown events are getting larger, including October’s annual Austin City Limits festival which ballooned to two consecutive weekends last year. And in November, the F1 Grand Prix, along with a large international crowd will return for a third year.
In his off-duty time, he is completing courses for a Masters degree.
Dusterhoft replaces Asst. Chief Stephen Deaton who recently stepped aside citing personal reasons. Here is a portion of the email he sent to APD staff April 24th:
‘Recently I found myself in the position of having to choose between staying in my current assignment and/or pursuing the relationship I recently
began. This decision was actually pretty easy for me to make.
So it is not with a heavy heart, but instead with a smile, that I announce that as of Sunday the 27th of this month, I will be stepping down as an assistant chief. I will continue my career with the PD in my previous role with the rank of commander.
This is a voluntary decision and one that I believe is in the best interest of not only the Department, but also of my own personal life.’ – Asst. Chief Stephen Deaton
City records show Austin’s five assistant chiefs earn $161,930 annually. The assistant chief over staff, Raul Munguia, earns $178,129.12.