AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Chief of Police Art Acevedo says newly released dash camera video of how an officer conducted a traffic stop with a black woman will not be tolerated by the department, and he is making a public apology to the victim.
Austin police say the traffic stop happened on June 15, 2015. In the video, an Austin Police Department officer is seen conducting a traffic stop on East Riverside Drive near Burton Drive. The officer’s lights and siren were on when he pulled over 26-year-old Breaion King. As the cars come to a stop in a parking lot, King steps out of her car as Officer Bryan Richter approaches her. As he asks her to get back into the car, the two continue speaking. King is sitting in the driver’s seat when the officer asks King to put her feet inside the car and from there the situation escalates.
After she responded to him, the officer asks her to step out of the car. When she doesn’t get out, the video shows the officer trying to get the woman out of the car and him telling her to “stop resisting.” As the officer continues to try to get her out of the car, she says “I’m getting out, let me get out.” Shortly thereafter, the officer pulls her out of the car and throws her to the ground and tells her to put her hands behind her back. During that time, she asks, “Why are you doing this to me? Are you serious?”
A few seconds later, as the officer is trying to place her in handcuffs, she tries to get up and the officer can be seen taking her to the ground a second time. Once the officer finally gets the handcuffs on King, about two minutes later, a back-up officer arrived on scene.
Racially-Charged Conversation in the Patrol Car
While in the patrol car with a different police officer, identified as Officer Patrick Spradlin, King asks the officer driving if he believes there was racism out there. The video shows her saying she believes Caucasians have more supremacy over black people. The officer responds “I don’t believe in that.”
The officer then asks the woman: “Why do you think so many people are afraid of black people?” He answers his own question by saying it’s because of “violent tendencies.”
He says he doesn’t blame people who are afraid because he says some black people look “intimidating.”
Acevedo says he was not aware of the two videos and the arrest until July 19, when Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg approached him about it. Acevedo says Officer Richter’s chain of command reviewed the incident when it occurred and determined the officer needed more training and counseling.
The department’s chief is questioning why this case never made it up to his desk. “I’ve also ordered an administrative inquiry into the chain of command and how they came to this decision and why it was not kicked up to my level,” says Acevedo. There is also a criminal investigation into Richter’s handling of King; Acevedo says that information will be given to the DA’s Office and they’ll make the decision on whether or not a Grand Jury will hear the case.
During a news conference on Thursday, Acevedo publicly apologized to King and her family. “I’m sorry that on the day you were stopped for going 15 miles an hour, you were approached and treated in a manner that is not consistent with this police chief and department.”
In regards to the racially charged discussion in the patrol car, Acevedo says this kind of mindset from an officer is disturbing. “We’re in 2016 and this will not be tolerated.” Acevedo said he believes Spradlin’s comments in the patrol car were racist.
Acevedo brought up the fact that he gets a lot of flak from various agencies when he stands by groups like Black Lives Matter. “I get beat up for Black Lives Matter. I get beat up by a lot of people for standing up with BLM. I get beat up for standing up with the Austin Justice Coalition.”
King was originally arrested and charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest search or transport. The case was dismissed in January.
According to the department, King never filed a complaint regarding her arrest. The chief wants to make sure the community knows they can come forward with complaints regarding his officers and department.
“When we don’t come forward, everyone loses and it just saddens me that something I’m not doing or something that I’m doing, for over a year we didn’t hear from Miss King,” says Acevedo.
KXAN News spoke to King’s attorney’s assistant who said King is not expected to speak until Friday. According to court records, no civil cases have been filed with King as the plaintiff.
Officer Richter has been with the department since 2010 and Officer Spradlin has been with the department since 2001. Both Richter and Spradlin are on administrative duty during the investigation.
Assistance from USDOJ
In response to King’s arrest, Acevedo says he has reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice for help in providing additional training for his officers.
The department is already offering a bias-based profile training class, but plans to have training on fair and impartial policing with the USDOJ.
The department is also reviewing its systems to look for opportunities for improvement.
This isn’t the first time the USDOJ has been involved with APD. In 2008, the USDOJ’s Civil Rights Division investigated the department’s use of force after the local NAACP filed a federal complaint against the department. In 2009, the USDOJ recommended that APD make 160 changes to its policies.
Mayor Adler reacts to incident
Mayor Steve Adler released the following statement, Friday:
The videos of Ms. King’s arrest were deeply troubling. They were a window into something that is outrageous, offensive, and counter to the values of our community, and that includes our police force. I am grateful that Chief Acevedo spoke so clearly on this matter and has assembled so many diverse voices from the community to help fix this problem. We can’t un-see the videos, and nor should we. But we can continue to work together to build a community that treats everyone with respect. We as community will get it done.”