OPO’s recommended policy changes in 2021

In June 2020, the Austin City Council passed a series of resolutions aimed at restricting the use of force by law enforcement.

Use-of-force policies

In June 2020, the Austin City Council passed a series of resolutionsopen_in_new aimed at restricting the use of force by law enforcement. As part of those resolutions, the City Manager directed OPO to facilitate a rewrite of the Austin Police Department (APD) policy manual, known as the General Orders. The rewrite will cover all policies, including those surrounding issues like search and seizure, body-worn cameras, dashboard cameras, mental health response, discipline, bias, language, and courtesy.

OPO’s Three-Phase Approach

OPO utilizes a three-phase approach to facilitate the rewrite of APD’s General Orders. OPO approaches this rewrite through an open process, seeking feedback and input from the community.

In Phase I, OPO conducts a preliminary analysis of APD’s current policy language on specific topics. The findings from this research are available on atxpoliceoversight.org.

In Phase II, OPO works with community partners and stakeholders to gather input from the public about proposed changes to policies. This outreach effort includes events, surveys, and other forms of community engagement.

In Phase III, OPO submits policy recommendations and community feedback to APD. APD, in consultation with the City Manager’s Office, will review the recommendations.

Reports

In 2021, OPO launched a policy initiative related to APD’s use-of-force policies.

Phase I of this initiative began in September 2020 and ended in January 2021 when OPO published our preliminary report. This report discussed our initial research and recommendations to change APD’s policies on six use-of-force matters:

  1. Restricting shooting at moving vehicles
  2. Exhausting all alternatives before using deadly force
  3. De-escalation
  4. Duty to Intervene
  5. Banning chokeholds and strangleholds
  6. Warning before shooting

OPO’s initial recommendations were based on research into best practices and relevant laws.

Click here to read the preliminary report.open_in_new

Phase II of this initiative took place between April and May 2021. Phase II involved a community engagement campaign to collect public input on APD’s current use-of-force policies and OPO’s proposed recommendations. For more information on this community engagement campaign, click here.open_in_new

The final phase of this initiative, Phase III, took place between June and October 2021. This phase of the initiative closed in October 2021 when OPO published our final report. Community voices were at the center of our final recommendations. The report highlighted public input that we received and explained how we incorporated this input, along with current best practices and relevant laws, into our final analysis and recommendations.

Some of our final recommendations included:

  • Requiring officers to make every attempt to safely intervene in instances when they observe another officer use or prepare to use force that is not objectively reasonable or engage in any conduct that would constitute a violation of state law, federal law, or APD policy. OPO also recommended that officers who witness or intervene in such an incident immediately report their observations and involvement to a supervisor and complete a written incident report.
  • Prohibiting officers from shooting from moving vehicles in all cases and at moving vehicles except if, based on the totality of the circumstances, officers have exhausted all possible alternatives and
    • An occupant of the vehicle is using or immediately threatening deadly force by means other than the vehicle itself or
    • If the vehicle itself is being used as a weapon, that will more likely than not cause a Mass Casualty Incident (e.g., driving into a crowd of people)
  • Prohibiting the use of chokeholds, strangleholds, and any other action that could, or is intended to, prevent, reduce, hinder or otherwise negatively impact an individual’s blood flow to the brain or intake of air.

Click here to read the final report.open_in_new

Presentations

In April 2021, OPO presented our initial use-of-force recommendations at the 8 Can’t Wait Town Hall event hosted by the City of Austin’s Community Police Review Commission. Click here to view this presentation.open_in_new

In July 2021, OPO presented our initial use-of-force recommendations to the City of Austin’s Public Safety Commission. Click here to view this presentation.open_in_new

Contact information

contact_phone
Main office: (512) 974-9090
Complaint and thank-you hotline: (512) 972-2676

Contact information

contact_phone
Main office: (512) 974-9090
Complaint and thank-you hotline: (512) 972-2676
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