Commander Staniszweski delivered a written reprimand to Officers Williams and Hutchison for the failure to tactfully perform his duty during an incident involving the arrest of a pedestrian. This was a violation of Austin Police Department policy 301.2. In response, the Office of Police Oversight is recommending the following: First, Austin police department chain of command should increase accountability while reviewing incidents. Second, internal affairs should improve their interactions with community members during the course of the investigation of a complaint.
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Office of Police Oversight
Case Number: 2019-1402
October 12, 2020
Notice of Formal Recommendations Related to #2019-1402
Section 6(a)(8) of Article 16 of the 2018 Meet and Confer Agreement between the City of Austin and the
Austin Police Association, states as follows:
“For external non-critical incident cases in which discipline is imposed at the level of an oral reprimand or
greater, OPO recommendations may be made public along with the corresponding oral reprimand (or
The Office of Police Oversight, after having monitored and reviewed the investigation into the above
complaint, makes the following recommendations:
Chain of Command Review
1. When presented with incontrovertible evidence of a policy violation, an accused employee’s chain of
command should sustain the allegation related to that policy violation. This is especially true for policies
that are not open to interpretation, such as those related to report writing.
Disciplinary decisions should be made based on the policies in existence at the time the incident
occurred. Should an officer’s commander disagree with any section of Austin Police Department
(APD) policy, or should the commander believe that the purpose of the policy is no longer relevant,
then he or she should, without engaging in insubordination, address any concerns with those
members of APD’s executive staff who are responsible for making changes to the policy. In no
scenario should anyone in an officer’s chain of command impart their opinions about policy through
the disciplinary process.
Similarly, an officer’s ignorance of a policy’s existence should not play a role in whether an allegation
under that policy is sustained.
2. When determining whether an officer has violated policy, the officer’s chain of command should give
equal weight to all verbal and non-verbal communication used by the officer, including hand gestures.
Some of the personal conduct policies outlined in the General Orders are broad and do not make
delineations between verbal and non-verbal communication. As a result, an officer’s chain of
command should give equal attention and weight to both when determining whether a violation has
Office of Police Oversight
Any decisions made by the chain of command should demonstrate a clear and precise understanding
of the distinctions or variations between policies, including whether the conduct must have been
observed by a complainant or instead deals with general expectations related to respect and
Internal Affairs Investigation
3. Civilian witnesses should not be asked what they would have done differently during an
Internal Affairs (IA) investigations are solely about whether an officer’s conduct during an
incident constitutes an administrative policy violation. Civilians are never the subject of
investigation. As a result, it is both irrelevant and inappropriate to question a civilian about
what they would have done differently during an incident.
In addition, it is essential to remember that civilians are voluntary participants in IA
investigations. As a result, investigators should use caution with both the tone and subject
matter of their questions and avoid questions that could discourage civilians from
participating in current or future investigations.
4. Interviewees should not be asked whether they believe that certain conduct meets a word's
definition, especially when that word has a particular meaning in APD policy, without first having
the word defined for them.
In general, investigators should ask open-ended questions. However, if more pointed
questions must be asked related to terms or phrases in APD policy, then a clear definition of
those terms or phrases should first be provided. Moreover, any definition should be
explained through commonly used language that can be easily understood.
5. To preserve the integrity of investigations, leading questions should be avoided.
Given that IA serves a fact-finding function, interview questions should generally be open-
ended and focus on what officers saw and heard. It is up to an officer's chain of command to
determine whether certain conduct constitutes a policy violation. As a result, a witness
officer's opinion about the conduct is mostly irrelevant, whereas their detailed descriptions
about what they saw and heard are both relevant and essential.
6. Whenever a video is played, the nature of the video and the timestamps should be stated
aloud for the record and transcription.
The description should include the source of the video and, given that there are often
multiple videos from the same officer, the total length of the video (i.e., "This is body worn
camera footage from Officer ________, and it is 51 minutes in length.")
Investigators should state the beginning timestamp before playing any video clip and state
the ending timestamp at each clip's conclusion.
7. Signed copies of every transcript should be placed in the corresponding case file as soon as
they are available.
If an officer or civilian does not sign their transcript, the IA investigator should
document this, along with an explanation in the shared case management system used by IA
and the OPO. In addition to adding a note to the shared case management system, the OPO
should be notified via email.
If any transcript remains unsigned at the time that IA’s investigative summary sent to an
officer’s chain of command, the IA investigator should notify the chain of command and
place a corresponding note in the body of the investigative summary.