City Council members voted Thursday to make changes to how Austin
police are trained, with the eventual goal of restarting cadet classes
by June 7 at the latest.
The police academy has not welcomed a group of new trainees since February 2020.
The vote was split 8-1-2, with Council Member Greg Casar voting
against, and Council members Vanessa Fuentes and Natasha Harper-Madison
“I believe there should be no further delay or no further
restrictions on our cadet class,” said Council Member Mackenzie Kelly,
who ran a campaign for the Northwest Austin seat last year on a platform
of resuming classes. “I hope that the time is now to bring forward the
The 144th class of the Austin Police Academy, which was set to start
last June, will be run differently and be under more scrutiny than past
classes, the city says.
City staff say among the changes they
will make are incorporating more adult learning strategies and reviewing
all teaching materials to make sure diversity and inclusion are
priorities. The state dictates what police need to learn, though, which
limits how extensive changes to the curriculum can be.
If the city follows through with these changes, Council members say
they will approve the $2.2 million needed to fund the next cadet class.
It’ll be run as a pilot, meaning an independent evaluator will review
how the training is going and recommend any changes for future classes.
While a vote on funding is still required to officially resume cadet
classes, some Council members said they felt the city was moving too
“I still don’t feel fully comfortable that we have taken the time
necessary to get this baked in time for it starting,” Casar said.
Last year, City Manager Spencer Cronk created a Reimagining Public
Safety Task Force made up of city staff and community members.
In a letter to Council earlier this month, members of the task force
said they objected to resuming cadet classes until certain issues are
addressed, such as the rate at which police stop and arrest Black drivers compared to white drivers.
To move forward now feels like a breach of trust, one of the task force co-chairs told KUT.
“It really wears away the trust of, not just those of us on the task
force as community representatives, but also all the hundreds of other
community members we’ve taken to help talk through this reimagining
process,” Paula Rojas, a volunteer member of Communities of Color
Council members asked Cronk to make changes to police training in
December 2019, after receiving anonymous complaints that an assistant
police chief used a racist term for Black people and former cadets
testified about intimidation and discrimination.
Council asked him to do so by June 2020 or otherwise postpone cadet
classes; the pandemic delayed Cronk’s work, so the city hit pause on the
The proposed changes Council members voted on Thursday come on the
heels of several unfavorable reports about how the city recruits and
trains new police, including a review of training videos, which community members said perpetuated racist, sexist and classist ideas.
Consultants with the firm Kroll Associates, based in Philadelphia,
also reviewed training materials and suggested many of the changes
Council members voted on Thursday. The city agreed last year to pay the firm up to $1.3 million to audit the materials used to train police as part of a larger review of racist police interactions with the public.
Consultants presented preliminary findings to the Council members in
March, and plan to finish their review of training materials next month.
This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.