Mayor Adler creates task force to ‘root out’ institutional racism

Mayor calls police-involved incidents "disturbing"

Dash camera footage of Breaion King's arrest in June 2015. The officer here is grabbing King out of her car. (Austin Police Department)
Dash camera footage of Breaion King's arrest in June 2015. The officer here is grabbing King out of her car. (Austin Police Department)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Mayor Steve Adler unveiled a plan to create a task force to address institutional racism across the city.

The announcement was made at City Hall on Wednesday. Adler says he recognized the issue after several high-profile incidents involving Austin police officers. Institutional racism is discrimination typically found in social groups, schools, banks and the law.

“It does not mean that we are racist here in Austin or that we have a racist society, but what it does mean is that we have structures in place that create unjust and inequitable outcomes,” said Adler.

The mayor said the first incident involves an unarmed Austin teen killed by a city officer. On the morning of Feb. 8, Officer Geoffrey Freeman responded to a call of an erratic person at the 12000 block of Natures Bend.

Freeman told investigators that he saw the teen in the middle of the street naked. When he got out of his vehicle, Joseph allegedly charged at Freeman. That is when the officer opened fire, killing Joseph. Freeman lost his position on the force after an investigation.

Adler said the second “disturbing” case involves Breaion King, an elementary school teacher, who was arrested last year. In July, a video of the arrest came to light. It shows Officer Bryan Richter pulling King out of her car and slamming her to the ground.

Last week, a Travis County grand jury decided not to file criminal charges against Richter. King is suing the city and Richter for the alleged “use of force.”

Adler says he understands it goes beyond the justice system and he wants the task force to also look at education, health, finance and housing.

Chas Moore with the Austin Justice Coalition will be on the task force and he’s hoping to see a shift in the technology industry as well as housing. “I think the biggest thing for me is the real estate and housing… how can we protect neighborhoods and communities of color that have been here for years, but now Austin is becoming this hot spot and people are getting pushed out,” said Moore.

The task force will include top city leaders including Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz and Huston-Tillotson University President Colette Pierce Burnette to City Hall to unveil the plan.

The task force is expected to submit a report to the mayor by March.

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