Police Departments wield great power. The exercise of power by the Austin Chief of Police, Art Acevedo, must be examined. Mr. Acevedo has not well-served the people of Austin. We can determine this by the number of officer involved shootings during his tenure, as well as allegations of excessive force, which are simply too great to ignore. Austin has been plagued with tragic cases recently, most notably the shooting death of an unarmed Larry Eugene Jackson Junior.
Jackson's "shooting" suggests that enforcement takes priority over life or liberty in the Austin Police Department's policy and perspective. Austin has, in part, changed for the worse during Mr. Acevedo’s tenure. And hopefully, by openly and transparently addressing the facts that support this ultimate conclusion, we can all agree; Austin needs a new Police Chief.
Mr. Acevedo has only one concern, enforcement. He is not alone. Many in law enforcement view enforcement as the end all be all, and Mr. Jackson’s death was the sad and inevitable result of such policy by the Austin Police Department. It is wholly inevitable that some members of our community will run from police officers. The question is do they deserve to die? The people of Austin deserve an answer to this question.
The people of Austin deserve and answer to this question because Mr. Jackson was shot and killed by APD Detective Charles Kleinert during a bank robbery investigation. Det. Kleinert was aware at the time he pursued Mr. Jackson, that Mr. Jackson had nothing to do with the bank robbery. Mr. Jackson might have misidentified himself to the bank manager as a bank customer, but he certainly posed no threat to the Detective. The incident, and apparent crime against a citizen by law enforcement, prompts a question that must be answered by local government: What responsibility, if any, does the Chief of Police have to create policies and an overall culture that prevents deaths like Mr. Jackson’s? Many in our community signed this petition to make known as the voters and people served by police, that it is the job of the Police Chief to prevent these kinds of utterly preventable deaths.
The recent death of John Schaefer on March 1, 2013 illustrates the exact same point. John Schaefer had shot a pitbull who attacked him in his yard. John Schaefer notified the Austin Police Department to report the shooting. He was not obligated to do so, and it was a fatal mistake for John Schaefer. The Police Officer who responded, Officer Jonathan Whitted asked John Schaefer to take his gun inside. John Schaefer refused. Officer Whitted’s response in that situation directly reflects the kind of culture and perspective that result's from APD's policy on how it insists on enforcement at all costs: this is at the crux of the issue we're presenting here. Austin police officers lack direction, because APD lacks effective leadereship.
Do we want Officers in our city to reach and try to take the gun of a 70 year old concealed hand gun license who is on his own property and has broken no law? Or not? The people who have signed this petition all agree the officer escalated the situation, it was another senseless, preventable tragedy, and the only solution to avoid repeating the same deadly mistake is a new Police Chief who can establish the kinds of policy that would benefit people like John Schaefer or Larry Jackson.
Mr. Acevedo made clear in his press conference that Officer Whitted made no mistake and quote, “had no choice”. Again, Mr. Whitted was a licensed gun owner who was defending himself from a pitbull, and he reported the incident to the police. Mr. Acevedo goes so far as to point out the emotional fallout of needlessly killing a man that the officer will have to manage. Mr. Acevedo never apologized for his Department’s handling of the situation. This petition stands for the idea that the responding officers should be trained to handle this situation a different way and respect the basic rights of all citizens.
The recent arrest of a jogger also illustrates some of the same fundamental value differences between Mr. Acevedo and our community. Mr. Acevedo, besides making coarse comments for which he later apologized, also suggested that he would have filed more serious charges of resisting arrest for going limp and refusing to get up off of the sidewalk. The case law is clear that a person who goes limp is not resisting arrest, however the law will not get in the way of enforcement for Mr. Acevedo. He makes clear that he will always be on the side of the officer and always be on the side of enforcement. It is common knowledge that the United States and Texas in particular have comparable far higher rates of incarceration when compared to the rest of the world. That is the point of the petition we present: that arresting as many as you can for as much as you can is not the policy we want from Austin’s Chief of Police. That's not the kind of Austin, Texas we all want. And we urge you to make changes for the betterment of our city.
By signing this petition I support the replacement of Mr. Acevedo to move Austin in a more positive direction.
Remove Art Acevedo
Austinites Against Aggressive Authoritarianism