Chief makes it official: Acevedo leaving town for Houston

Art Acevedo, accepting the job of Houston police chief, with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, left. Nov. 17, 2016 (KXAN Photo)
Art Acevedo, accepting the job of Houston police chief, with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, left. Nov. 17, 2016 (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Police Chief Art Acevedo’s decade at the helm of Austin’s largest municipal department is nearing an end now that he has accepted the job of Houston’s top cop.

At a Thursday afternoon press conference, Acevedo, standing next to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, said he looked forward to working in a city where the elected officials got the big picture and where they think big.

“I love cops. I love policing. I’m 52 years old and I still love coming to work each and every day,” Acevedo said. “Just give me the chance to show you what the mayor saw in me and I promise you that when we’re done they’re going to be thankful that we have Chief Art Acevedo at the helm.” A date for his departure has not been confirmed.

In a statement, Acevedo described his nearly 10-year tenure with APD as an honor of a lifetime. “I urge you to remember where we were as an organization in July 2007 and what we’ve accomplished since as a community,” he said. “We’ve made great strides and I look forward to the Austin Police Department’s continued success.”

Ever since Acevedo took over the reins of the Austin Police Department in 2007, he has not shied away from the public face of the role — the positive and not so positive. Acevedo often lent a hand and APD’s name to various charity groups and non-profits. He is also known for not being afraid to get his hands dirty in the field, making arrests on occasion.

Politically, he has been an outspoken critic of policies to deport people in the U.S. illegally and testified against a Texas law allowing guns to be carried on college campuses.

Twice, Acevedo faced disciplinary action from his boss, the city manager. One time came in 2011 and again 2016 when he was reprimanded and docked pay for speaking to cadets about an ongoing investigation into the officer-involved shooting of an unarmed youth after the city manager told him not to.

Also this year, Acevedo announced the closure of the city police crime lab after it became known workers were using dated investigative techniques, throwing into question the integrity of some cases.

Acevedo also caught flak after controversial arrests his officers made like one this year involving a woman thrown to the ground. And criticism from the union decrying Acevedo’s leadership style.

Reactions to the Chief’s departure

In an interview with the Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday, he said the news did not come as a surprise.

“Chief Acevedo has been looking for two or three years now to move on,” said Casaday. “We’re very happy for him and his family and this is a huge opportunity for Chief Acevedo to further his career.”

Austin Mayor Steve Adler has reacted to the report that Acevedo is leaving with the following statement:

Houston is getting a world-class police chief. Chief Acevedo has made our community safer and closer, and he is trusted and much loved by so many. Austin is losing a moral and joyous leader, and I’m losing a friend.

Losing Art Acevedo is a huge deal, and replacing him will be a daunting task in part because he gave so much of himself to his job and his community. But Austin is a safe city with a strong police force, and we’ll have talented applicants to take his place. We’ll shortly have a new city manager and a new police chief, and this gives Austin a unique opportunity to enter a new era in our history.”

Rumor mill

Given such a stream of public commentary mixed with his large, public personality, rumors of Acevedo’s looming departure circulated from time to time. In April 2014, the bilingual, career lawman with family ties to Cuba, Acevedo interviewed for a position with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement before withdrawing his name from the candidacy. Acevedo was also one of six candidates for the police chief position in Dallas in 2010.

In 2015, Acevedo was considered for chief in the city of San Antonio. He chose to remain in Austin after then City Manager Marc Ott agreed to give him a 5 percent raise, boosting Acevedo’s annual salary to $216,000.

In November 2016, rumors began to swirl again he was a shoo-in for the vacant Houston chief job. Now, Acevedo leaves behind a legacy of community-driven policing efforts including efforts to put body cameras on all patrol officers and increase the racial diversity of the department.

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