Austin police union: Understaffing played a role in teen’s death

Austin Police Association on shooting of David Joseph. (KXAN Photo/Tom Rapp)
Austin Police Association on shooting of David Joseph. (KXAN Photo/Tom Rapp)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Association is calling for an audit of the Austin Police Department patrol staff after the shooting death of 17-year-old David Joseph last week.

In a news conference on Tuesday, APA President Kenneth Casaday says the major problem the day of the shooting was a lack of staffing in the police department. “Staffing is vital to ensure officers have more options when making split second decisions,” says Casaday. Casaday believes better staffing for a police force leads to more options for officers when they are faced with the decision that Officer Geoffrey Freeman was when he shot Joseph.

The day Joseph was shot, Feb. 8, Casaday says seven police officers were patrolling that particular area of North Austin. Casaday went on to say it took more than three minutes for back-up to arrive at the scene. Many are questioning why a mental healthcare officer was not called—according to the APA this idea is a myth while the police force is under-staffed.

APD Officer Geoffrey Freeman (Courtesy: CLEAT)
APD Officer Geoffrey Freeman (Courtesy: CLEAT)

An independent audit will be conducted by APA “into the current police model to provide valuable insight into this tragedy with how to keep the community safer in the future,” says Casaday.

Casaday says APD does not have the funds to supply more on-duty officers. “Chief Art Acevedo prides himself in always coming in under budget even if shifts are under staffed,” says Casaday, who thinks APD should be staffed like the Austin Fire Department, which he says operates at 100 percent every day.

The APA also says Austin police need to provide better training for officers no matter the cost. Currently, every officer is required to under-go one day of defense training every two years. However, they train on using fire arms every month. “Defense tactics are a perishable skills,” says Casaday.

Last week, Acevedo put a 30-day timeline on the investigation, which Casady says is irresponsible given that investigations typically take more than 45 days. Additionally Acevedo said the toxicology results does not matter in the investigation. APA says this is not true, and that the results should be factored into the case.

The President of the Texas Peace Officers Associations, Sargent Schandra Erving, said “no officer ever wakes up to take a life,” they are here to serve and protect. Erving spoke about her personal relationship with Officer Freeman having served in the same military unit. “I can truly say he is warm person, a cool minded person…a lovable guy,” said Erving. “As a policing community we want to be there for him the best that we can.”

CLEAT Staff Attorney, Grant Goodwin, said the facts of case are clear and race was not an element in the rapidly developing tense situation faced by Officer Freeman. Goodwin said Freeman was left without a choice and the facts play out in a difficult situation any officer could have found himself in. He went on to say the outcome would have been the same without further staffing and training.

Chief Acevedo responded to the APA Tuesday evening:

I am aware of the comments made by the Austin Police Association. While I respect their views, I will not be commenting any further. As stated last week, our focus is on a complete and impartial investigation, which we owe to both the Joseph and Freeman families, as well as the Austin community.

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