We’re engaging the community to rewrite the Austin Police Department’s (APD) policy
Austin's City Council and City Manager want to know your opinion on Austin Police Department policies. The Office of Police Oversight (OPO) is organizing events and surveys to collect feedback from community members.
Currently, we are requesting feedback on policies related to the use of force. These policies cover things like how and when officers use their guns.
OPO will organize community feedback into a report and submit it to the City Manager, City Council, and the Austin Police Department.
Read more about this effort below or click here to get involvedopen_in_new.
What are the General Orders?
The General Orders are the Austin Police Department’s policies. These policies direct most actions taken by Austin Police Department officers and cover everything from how to file reports to the use of force.
Why do APD policies need to change?
OPO conducted extensive research on national best practices for policingopen_in_new. The research shows that updating APD's policies will improve the safety of both community members and police officers.
OPO reviewed successful programs and policies across Texas and the United States to recommend specific steps to reduce risk to officers and community members. These recommendations reflect the expertise and practical experience of oversight professionals, policing professionals, and legal scholars.
While these policy recommendations will not solve all racial disparities in policing, they will improve APD’s transparency with the community, increase accountability, and help reduce the number of use-of-force incidents. These improvements are key to advancing racial equity and reducing racial disparities.
Why is OPO helping rewrite the General Orders?
In June 2020, Austin City Council passed several measures to address the use of force by law enforcement.
These resolutions included:
- Resolution 50open_in_new (PDF, 149 KB)
- Resolution 95open_in_new (PDF, 286 KB)
- Resolution 96open_in_new (PDF, 434 KB)
These resolutions form the foundation for Reimagining Public Safety (RPS). RPS is the City of Austin's strategy for improving public safety with a visionary, community-centered, resident-informed lens. RPS’ work tackles interconnected issues like police training, emergency response, and public health.
The City Manager directed OPO to help rewrite the Austin Police Department General Orders. This rewrite will cover all policy areas, including issues like search and seizure, body-worn cameras, dash cameras, mental health response, discipline, bias, language, and courtesy.
Why are we starting with re-writing these policies?
OPO recommends that the General Orders rewrite start with the policies that have the most impact on officers' interactions with the public. Anytime a police officer uses physical force or a weapon during an interaction, it creates a safety risk to both the officer and the community member. Community members have been vocal about prioritizing use-of-force policies in the wake of recent officer-involved shootings.
In June 2020, in response to community concerns, City Council outlined the City of Austin's position on six of the eight policy issues at the center of 8 Can't Wait. 8 Can't Wait (link) is a national campaign that advocates for more restrictive policies to reduce the use of deadly force by police and save lives. OPO used the 8 Can't Wait recommendations as a starting point to recommend changes to APD policies. Our recommendations consider our specific community needs and additional research into best practices.
Want to share your opinions on OPO’s recommendations? Learn ways to get involvedopen_in_new.