Austin police union members give Chief Acevedo bad reviews

Chief Acevedo addressing the media after an officer-involved shooting at the Randall's parking lot on MoPac & William Cannon (KXAN Photo)
Police Chief Acevedo (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The results of an Austin Police Association members’ survey were released Thursday. Austin Police Department leadership and Chief Art Acevedo were given poor marks.

Fifty-one percent of active members responded to the survey, or 883 of 1,728 members.

When it came to morale within the department, 55 percent reviewed it as “poor,” followed by 31 percent who said it was “only fair.”

Officers said “better leadership” would make the biggest improvement in their jobs (47 percent), followed by additional manpower (43 percent).

The majority of members said the chief is “often arbitrary or politically-driven in high-profile disciplinary cases,” with 53 percent strongly agreeing. When asked if the chief often relies on fear and retaliation in managing the department, 37 percent strongly agreed and 29 percent agreed.

Most members also strongly agreed that political considerations were primarily responsible for the firing of Officer Geoffrey Freeman, who shot and killed 17-year-old David Joseph.

When asked to give a vote of confidence, 23 percent of members said they had faith Acevedo can lead the department effectively in the future. Forty-two percent said they did not, while 35 percent were uncertain.

The Austin Police Association, however, was given mostly good reviews by its membership, with 28 percent and 55 percent finding the organization to be doing an excellent and good job, respectively.

KXAN caught up with Council Member Don Zimmerman Thursday at City Hall, just before council dove back into discussions surrounding APD body cameras. Just as there is a desire to know more about what happens when officers are out on a call, Zimmerman says he wants to know more about what’s happening within APD. We showed him APA’s survey results.

“I don’t have enough of an inside view to tell what’s going on there. I really don’t. And that’s part of the point I’m making, is that the council is pretty well isolated from what’s going on in APD,” Zimmerman said.

APA President Ken Casaday said rather than argue about whether or not there are issues within the department, the union decided to reinforce concerns with numbers.

When asked if he was surprised by any of the survey results, Casaday said, “One of the bigger ones was, ‘What would make your job easier?’ And I thought for sure, more officers would be number one. And actually, number one was leadership.”

Chief Acevedo responded to the survey results Thursday, saying, “I am excited at the opportunity this survey provides to address the concerns raised.”

He continued, “I look forward to working with our leadership cadre to ensure we are doing everything we can to continue moving our organization forward. Our work is especially critical in light of the current negative climate nationally as it relates to policing.”

Acevedo said he is proud of the officers that keep Austin one of the safest cities in the country, “I am confident the best days of the APD are yet to come.”

Casaday said he and the chief had a good meeting earlier this week, and agreed to sit down to discuss staffing models. APD is facing recruiting challenges and as of two months ago, had a shortage of more than 100 positions.

The chief was punished for “insubordination” by City Manager Marc Ott after he met with Austin police cadets in regards to the David Joseph case. Ott warned warned the police chief to let the administrative process run its “normal course,” to stop meeting with groups, including Austin police and its cadets, as well as Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday on the issue of the David Joseph case.

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