Archive for the ‘Austin’ Category

Cop watch.

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Two quick notes:

Remember the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy who thought his gun was a taser and ended up killing a guy last April?

Guilty of second-degree manslaughter.

Followup to the latest Art Watch: I usually don’t link to Statesman editorials, but I’m making an exception in this case. This one contains Chief Acevedo’s response to the reprimand, and the “he did not find any violation of APD or city policy” memo from the city manager.

In other news, it seems at least some members of the city council are not pleased…with the city manager.

Council Member Don Zimmerman said it was that lack of transparency that has led to his growing desire for Ott to be fired.
“When the city manager notified us, he didn’t even bother to attach the same documents that were sent to the media,” Zimmerman said. “I call that secrecy.”

Art (Acevedo), damn it! watch. (#Y of a series)

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Remember my asking a while back, “Will we get to “Z” in the series?”

That question has suddenly become a lot more pertinent.

The Austin city manager has:

  • accused the chief of insubordination
  • fined him five days of pay
  • reprimanded him
  • and warned him that “he could be fired for future misconduct” (No!
    Really?)

What happened? You know that naked unarmed 17-year-old that got shot back in February? The city manager’s complaint basically amounts to: “I told you to shut up and stop talking to people about this, and you didn’t.” I apologize for the length of this quote, but I feel it is necessary to show the timeline of events that caused the city manager to lose his you-know-what:

Acevedo responded with a news conference Feb. 11 with representatives from several community groups, including Black Lives Matter — a decision that angered many officers and their union who thought the gathering showed Acevedo had already decided that Freeman erred.
Documents show that, several weeks later, Acevedo visited the department’s police training academy, where he again discussed the shooting.
That meeting prompted a formal complaint to Ott by the union, and Ott hired an outside investigator, Larry Watts, to look into whether Acevedo’s comments were inappropriate or showed a bias against Freeman.
Watts found Acevedo hadn’t violated any policies, but wrote that “while I do not find a policy violation, I do believe that the department and city of Austin would have been better served if he had refrained from discussing the Freeman case at that time.”
Soon after Acevedo’s visit to the academy, Ott met with Acevedo and, the city manager wrote, “I directed you to let the administrative investigation process proceed in its normal course; to cease meeting with groups, including APD officers and cadets, and talking about matters connected with the pending officer involved shooting investigation.” He also was told not to discuss the case with union President Ken Casaday, Ott wrote.
According to the memo, Acevedo proceeded to discuss the case with Casaday on March 3, and returned to the police academy March 4 to hold a mandatory meeting with cadets and training staff.

The Statesman goes on to say that, according to the city manager’s memo, he met with Chief Acevedo on April 12th, and “Acevedo agreed that his actions had been insubordinate.” However, the Statesman also quotes the chief:

“I respectfully differ with the city manager and Austin Police Association about my public remarks and response to the officer-involved shooting on February 8, 2016. I acted in the best interests of the City of Austin, Austin Police Department, and community after a tragic incident that cost a young life and ended a police officer’s career.
“While I disagree with the manager’s reprimand, I recognize his right to exercise that authority,” Acevedo said. “The manager and I have worked together for nearly nine years. Disagreements are inevitable. I look forward to putting this behind us and continuing a productive partnership.”

Some thoughts:

  • In case you were wondering, when the chief pulled out of the running for the San Antonio job, he got a five percent pay raise, plus an agreement to pay out “up to six months” of severance if he gets canned. The Stateman puts Chief Acevedo’s current pay at “about $206,086″ (about?), and claims five days of pay “would mean a loss of about $4,000″. I’m not sure where that number comes from: the paper doesn’t specify that $206,000 is yearly, but I feel it is safe to assume so. Divided by 365.25 (to account for that pesky leap year) I get $564.23 a day, or $2,821.16 for five days. Anybody want to double-check my math on that?
  • The Statesman also spells out some additional background: briefly, Acevedo was hired by a former city manager (Toby Futrell) and the claim is that there’s been a simmering ongoing conflict between the chief and the current city manager (Marc Ott).
  • The documents show publicly for the first time dissatisfaction among some in city management for an official who has been arguably the most visible in local government since arriving in Austin in 2007.” On the one hand, in my experience so far with the Citizen’s Police Academy, the rank-and-file seem to love the guy. Yes, they could be blowing smoke up my you-know-what. And I suppose they wouldn’t pick people to come down and present if they knew somebody was going to publicly say, “Chief’s an a–hole.” But the feelings I’ve heard expressed seem heartfelt and genuine: the chief has made the department more professional, more accountable to the city, better equipped, and more transparent. Many people in high law enforcement positions (from what we’ve been told) look to APD as a national model, and are actually calling the chief daily looking for advice.
  • On the other hand, I’m sure there are at least some officers who are disgruntled by the disciplinary action taken as a result of the shooting. I’d like to express an opinion on that myself, but I’m still turning over some issues related to the use of force in my own mind. The question I’m wondering about is: if Acevedo is fired, how does the rank-and-file react? Also, what does this mean for recruiting in an already understaffed department?
  • I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not sure how the city government works in the case. Does the city manager have the absolute authority to fire the chief? Or does the council have to agree? And if the city council has to agree; give the current composition of the council, would they? How would the votes break down?
  • Finally, if the chief does go, I’m worried about me, Al Franken the future of the Citizen’s Police Academy, and of quite a few of the folks I’ve met through it. I’m hoping things don’t come to that. At least, not before May 19th, when we graduate.

Interesting times (part 2).

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Great and good friend of the blog RoadRich is taking the CPA class with me. Actually, the whole thing was his idea, so now you know who to blame for the blog posts.

And as far as blaming people for blog posts, he also sent a thoughtful reply to the use of force post. I liked it enough that I asked him for permission to use it here, which he granted. What follows after the jump are his comments, with a few personal asides edited out.

(more…)

Interesting times (part 1).

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Austin Police Department, use of force policies, and the officer who was fired for shooting a naked unarmed 17-year old male.

I have two followups to that.

Austin has an organization called the Office of the Police Monitor. This is an organization independent of the APD; the basic idea is that they serve as a civilian oversight organization for the police. They’re the ones who issued that report on stops and searches I touched on a while back.

Part of what they do is monitor Internal Affairs investigations, and make recommendations as they see fit. You might correctly guess that they were involved in the shooting investigation.

The Stateman published a story late yesterday afternoon about one of the OPM’s recommendations as a result of this incident: they want a trainer at the police academy reassigned.

Yes, a trainer. Why? I’m going to put a break here because this is running long…

(more…)

Police now give you no break…

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

During stops that resulted in a citation or an arrest, African-Americans had a 1 in 6 chance of being searched in the same type of stops, which was the same rate since 2012. Hispanics had a 1 in 9 chance of being searched, which also was the same rate from the previous two years, the report found. Whites had a 1 in 22 chance of being searched.

I wanted to take note of this story, and the complete report from the Office of the Police Monitor.

Chief of Staff Manley, who is quoted extensively in the Statesman report, addressed our Citizen’s Police Academy class last week and spent about 30 minutes going over the report. I feel comfortable saying that pretty much everything he told us, as far as APD’s response to the report, made it into the Statesman‘s article. But I’m glad to get the OPM’s side, too.

(A representative from the OPM did address our CPA class, and I think the CPA deserves some credit for having him there. However, his presentation came the week before the OPM report was released.)

There are some things that Chief Manley said in his presentation that bother me a bit, but I’m having trouble articulating exactly why; this may be the subject of a longer post later, along with one I’m trying to write about “response to resistance”.

(As we all know, resistance is a) futile, and II) voltage/current.)

Random notes: February 22, 2016.

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Two from the NYT:

Save the endangered Long Island skeet!

Harper Lee was a big fan of Opus. Yes, the penguin, from “Bloom County”.

Mr. Breathed could barely believe what he was reading: “How ironic is that here, she is desperately upset that I’m letting my character die for her when millions around the world, for generations, have been upset that she let her characters end?” he said, referring to Ms. Lee’s never publishing another book until the contentious release of “Go Set a Watchman” last year.

Borepatch left a most gracious note on the last obit watch, which was much appreciated. I’ve been feeling like all I do is write obit watches these days. It also feels kind of lazy sometimes; but I like to think that there’s some historical value, if not now perhaps in the next few years, in noting these deaths and how they were covered.

And every once in a while you find an obit for someone who didn’t get the attention that Harper Lee or Scalia got, but deserves some attention. Speaking of that…

And speaking of lazy, I do have some longer pieces I want to write. Some of them are still in draft status, waiting for things to come together. Then there are some things that I expected to be able to write longer form entries about that just haven’t materialized yet.

I’d love to be able to write about my ongoing experiences with the Austin Police Department Citizen’s Police Academy, for example. But we’re only two sessions in and the first one was mostly back-patting. I’m hoping that there will be things that are worth writing about (and that I can write about without breaking any rules) soon. (If you’re really interested in the actual police academy and the training process, there’s a set of videos up on YouTube.)

Quick movie note: Lawrence and I went to see “Hail, Caesar!” yesterday. Lawrence liked it more than I did. I don’t think it is a bad movie, but it seemed slight and insubstantial.

We watched “Burn After Reading” a few weeks ago, and I liked that a little more: it may have something to do with almost everyone in “Burn” being utterly insane. (Especially John Malkovich’s character; but then, Malkovich adds that extra special touch to everything he’s in. I’m still not going to see “Zoolander 2″, though.)

TL,DR: wait for “Hail, Ceaser!” on streaming.

Obit watch: January 17, 2016.

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

Catching up on a few from the past couple of days.

Dan “Grizzly Adams” Haggerty, for the record. NYT. A/V Club.

Both of the times Mike the Musicologist and I have gone up to Tulsa, Haggerty was a “special guest”. I thought about getting an autograph and maybe even a photo with him – if nothing else, as a present for my brother – but somehow, in all our wanderings around the show (and remember, it is a huge show) we never made it past where he and the other guests were sitting. I kind of regret that now…

Noted Austin public radio personality Paul Ray died on Friday. Statesman. KUTX.

Time flies.

Friday, November 27th, 2015

Damn. It has been a year since that asshole tried to shoot up the police department and got center-punched for his trouble? Where does the time go?

One year later article from the Statesman, which has some details I either didn’t know or forgot.

Johnson turned protective. Still holding on tightly to the horses’ reins with his left hand, he pressed his chest against one of the garage’s concrete pillars and drew his weapon, the Police Department’s standard-issue Smith & Wesson M&P 40.

The bizarre nature of the incident and his incredible gunshot come up nearly every day. According to a ballistics investigation, the .40-caliber bullet fired from Johnson’s gun traveled 314 feet in less than a second. The bullet nicked the driver’s door frame of McQuilliams’ vehicle and continued tumbling sideways 5 more feet before it hit McQuilliams.

Yes. That was a 100 yard, one-handed shot with an M&P .40.

That was the only shot police fired that night.

It was also the decisive one.

I can’t find it online, and my memory is a little sketchy, but I’m reminded of an “Ayoob Files” from some years ago. Briefly: bad guy armed with a rifle is holding off cops (and kills one dead). Cops are only armed with handguns, and try to take the guy out, but he has them pinned down 80 to 100 yards away. My recollection of Ayoob’s account is that at least one of the responding officers tried making shots at that range with his duty gun; when the bad guy was finally taken down (as I recall, by someone who arrived on scene with a shotgun and hit him with a rifled slug), they found a fairly tight group of bullet holes…just above where the bad guy’s head would have been.

One of Ayoob’s points, which I thought was well taken was: maybe every once in a while you should try taking long range shots with your duty weapon, just so you have some idea of what it can do and where you might need to hold. Then again…

Johnson, 40, loves his unit and his job, a perfect fit for someone who had grown up riding horses on a ranch and practiced shooting with a .22-caliber rifle from his back porch.

…if you grew up shooting off the back porch, maybe you don’t need that advice.

(Also, Massad Ayoob, if you happen to be reading this: this incident, and Sgt. Johnson in particular, might make for a good “Ayoob Files” installment. Just saying.)

Well. Well well well. Well.

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

More from the HouChron on the “person of interest” in the Judge Kocurek case.

Highlights:

  • He was scheduled to go before the judge in December: prosecutors were looking to revoke his probation from a previous fraud case.
  • He’s been charged with a murder from May of this year.
  • He “has a long arrest record in Harris County but few convictions, court records show.”

Quick random notes: November 10, 2015.

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Mike Thomas out as athletic director at Illinois.

The Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow trial stated yesterday.

On one occasion, Hasib said, Chow told an agent, who clandestinely tape-recorded his comments, “I don’t commit crimes myself, but I know a lot of people who do.”

More from the LAT.

My mother was complaining last night that the authorities were being awfully close-mouthed about the shooting of Judge Kocurek. I figured they were playing things close to the vest because the investigation was ongoing.

Well. Well well well. Well.

Austin police said Monday night that it is aware of the arrest in Houston of a person of interest in Kocurek’s shooting and that the person is being detained on unrelated charges, but declined to comment any further citing the ongoing investigation.

Note from the police blotter…

Sunday, November 8th, 2015

I’m sorry I didn’t make note of this yesterday, but I was running from sunrise to midnight: first, hanging out with family at WurstFest, then diiner with friends and hanging out watching creepy stuff.

(Seriouly. I like to think I have a high tolerance for creepy, but Island of Lost Souls got under my skin. I may have more to say about this later, but I do commend the Criterion blu-ray to your attention.)

Anyway, this is kind of a local story, but it may have broader implications: somebody tried to kill a local judge late Friday night.

The judge in question, Julie Kocurek, is a district judge and is heavily involved with criminal prosecutions:

… it was Kocurek who, in July, unsealed the 75-page search warrant affidavit that for the first time linked former Austin police officer VonTrey Clark to the conspiracy to kill Samantha Dean, an Austin-area crime victims counselor shot to death in February.

I’m not saying it was Clark or his buddies that were behind this, but the speculation is that this was some form of retaliation, and not just a robbery gone bad. She was with other people, and:

When she returned home, a bag of trash or a garbage can had been placed in front of the security gate into her driveway, requiring the driver of her car to stop the vehicle to remove it.

Judge Kocurek is currently in stable condition, according to reports. We hope she makes a full recovery, and we’ll be watching this story with great interest.

Well, it’s official now…

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

…VonTrey Clark has officially been indicted on capital murder charges.