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Austin Police Chief Has A 'Comprehensive' Plan To Handle Election Protests, But Offers Few Specifics

A worker boards up windows in downtown Austin on Monday as a precaution against unrest following the election.
Julia Reihs
/
KUT
A worker boards up windows in downtown Austin on Monday as a precaution against unrest following the election.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley says his department has a plan to keep demonstrators safe should protests break out in response to the election results.

“To avoid compromising operational security, I cannot offer specifics of the plan,” Manley wrote in a memo Tuesday to the mayor and City Council. “I can share, however, that the plan is comprehensive and emphasizes the importance of protecting those who are exercising their right to vote along with protecting those who are exercising their rights to assemble and free speech, regardless of political affiliation.”

Council Members Greg Casar, Jimmy Flannigan, Delia Garza and Natasha Harper-Madison sent Manley a letter Thursday, asking him to specify how police planned to handle anticipated election protests.

APD had revealed a bit of its plan weeks earlier. In a press conference Oct. 13, Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon said the department would be on "tactical alert" during election week; he said that meant every officer would be in uniform and ready to respond to protests.

Council members specifically asked in their letter how APD planned to avoid seriously injuring protesters like police did during demonstrations against racial injustice in May. During a weekend of protests, police shot lead-pellet-filled bags at demonstrators, seriously injuring at least two people.

After public outcry over these injuries, Manley said police would no longer shoot these "less lethal" rounds into crowds. But council members wanted more; a week later they passed a resolution asking APD to ban the use of all "less lethal" rounds on protesters and tear gas in any situation.

An investigation by KUT and The Trace later found police had ordered thousands of these "beanbag" rounds despite the department's policy change.   

In their letter last week, council members asked if police had taken any action to prohibit the use of these weapons. Manley wrote that APD has “made improvements” in its tools, training and tactics, but did not elaborate.

Got a tip? Email Audrey McGlinchy at audrey@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.

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