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Now Austin Cops Can't Search Your Car Unless a Supervisor OKs It

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin police officers will be required to get permission from a supervisor before searching a vehicle with the owners’ consent. That’s one of several APD policy changes announced today by police chief Art Acevedo. Officers will also have to get the driver to sign a form saying they voluntarily consent to the search.

Acevedo made the announcement while standing alongside local civil rights leaders Nelson Linder with the NAACP and Jim Harrington with the Texas Civil Right’s Project.

“It was historically an issue for years,” Harrington said in a phone interview.  “Police on the East Side would stop people and search them and claim it was by consent. I think we’ve seen considerable progress in limiting consent searches to where there really is consent and now of course there has to be supervisor approval.”

Other Austin police policy changes announced today involve disabling a vehicle with a gun. That is now only allowed by units specially trained in the tactic and can only be done under extraordinary circumstances.  Police are also barred from standing in front of a moving vehicle "since doing so may increase the likelihood of having to resort to the use of deadly force," the new policy reads.

Another policy change surrounds how to react when someone is struggling with delusions or emotional issues. At least four officers and a sergeant will be sent to the scene, and at least one of them has to be trained in dealing with mental health issues. 

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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