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Crime & Justice

Here's What The Police Chief Finalists Had To Say About Racism, Homicides And Their Vision For APD

Austin police officers stand near an overpass on I-35 to prevent protesters from blocking traffic during a demonstration outside police headquarters.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr.
/
KUT

Austin has narrowed its search for the city’s next police chief to three candidates.

Avery Moore is an assistant chief with the Dallas Police Department, Emada Tingirides is a deputy chief with the Los Angeles Police Department and Joseph Chacon is the interim police chief for the Austin Police Department.

The city began searching for a new police chief earlier this year, after former Chief Brian Manley stepped down from the job in March.

The three finalists attended public meetings this week where they answered questions from a moderator and the audience. KUT has compiled some of the candidates’ answers here; responses have been lightly edited for brevity.

Members of the public can submit feedback to the city on the police chief candidates here.

On Austin’s initiative to "reimagine public safety"

Last year, at the urging of council members and community residents, City Manager Spencer Cronk began a process his office is calling “reimagining public safety.” This includes various initiatives, such as an audit of racism within the police department and a community-led task force on what changes the city should make to policing.

averymoore_GCP_081821
Gabriel C. Pérez
Avery Moore, assistant chief of the Dallas Police Department, speaks during a community forum with the three finalists to become Austin's next police chief, at the Palmer Events Center on Wednesday.

Avery Moore: “When I think about just the concept of reimagining policing — what an awesome concept. I believe that policing has a responsibility to always evolve, to always get better, to always strive where you see that you have deficiencies to make them positives. … We just have to come together. All three legs ... local government, police and the community working together as a team to make Austin the best city, the safest city in America.”

Emada Tingirides: “I completely stand behind reimagining public safety. And what I really think is important, too, is that I've talked to a lot of police officers from Austin, and they believe in it, too. They accept the civilian oversight. They accept the fact that we do need to make change and look at ourselves and make critical decisions in the way that we train, especially as it relates to reverence for human life and de-escalation. And it's needed. It's needed across this country right now. Austin is at the forefront of this. And I'm looking forward to taking the knowledge and skills that I have had in reimagining over the past decade and bringing that here to this city as well.”

Joseph Chacon: I was there when we began the process over a year ago. … How are we going to make this successful? I think one of the best examples that I can give, and I mentioned it just a moment ago, is our training academy. We have completely reimagined the way that we are delivering training to our cadets, transitioning from a paramilitary kind of style of academy to one that is based on an adult learning environment. We have put in the community connect piece at the very beginning to really help our cadets understand why they're getting into this line of work, why it is that they've chosen this profession, and why it's so important that we build guardians, and kind of transition from that warrior mindset to a guardian mindset.”

On the rise in homicides in Austin

Between 2019 and 2020, Austin’s murder rate rose by roughly 34%. To learn more and test what you know about crime in the city, take our crime quiz.

Avery Moore: We're going to need a comprehensive violent crime plan and then we're going to have to change the mindset of how we do things. One of the things that I believe in is that if you're highly visible, wherever their violent crime is, that's a way that you can deter crime. And what I mean by visibility is not enforcement. Just being visible, going out, talking to people, introducing yourself to people.

What we do in Dallas is we have 15 minutes of visibility for every hour that we've discovered that violent crime happens. So what that means is a geographical area. We use grids. It's 700-feet grids on either side, which is about eight football fields. And we have officers assigned there and their responsibility is to be highly visible. Most of this happens in the evening. So they just turn the red lights on. As people approach they talk to them, they say hi. So it's not about enforcement. It really is just another way to police in a peaceful way.”

 Emada Tingirides, deputy chief for the Los Angeles Police Department, is one of three finalists for the position of Austin police chief.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Emada Tingirides, deputy chief for the Los Angeles Police Department, is one of three finalists for the position of Austin police chief.

Emada Tingirides: “I don't like talking about it in numbers because it's people's lives. It's people's families. And when you have violence in a community, it creates stress and it creates trauma and you have young children living in communities that have post-traumatic stress. We have to address that and the trauma that comes after the crime and also the officers that come in contact with individuals that have been victimized. We have to understand the anger that they have because they're repeatedly traumatized in their community and they feel like they don't have a voice and that they've been left behind and then giving the officers the tools to address what comes after that violence.

We have to be strategic in our approach to the violence. We have to work with our partners, with [the] FBI. We have to be strategic in where the crime is occurring, look at the root causes of the crime. And we also have to have a community engagement component to that crime. Increase foot beats in areas where we've seen an increase in violent crime, having emergency meetings to discuss the crime and allow the community to talk about their feelings and weigh in how they feel we should address the violence in their communities.”

Joseph Chacon: “I think it's important for Austinites to realize this is still one of the safest cities in the country ... and we're making efforts to maintain and stay ahead of that. What we are seeing, and what other cities across the country are seeing, is an increase in gun violence and an increase in their homicides.

Very quickly, after I took over, we began a program known as the Violence Intervention Program, working through our organized crime division and our violent crime units, as well as some of our specialized tactical units, to create a program that was going to look at targeting violent offenders. This was not going to be some kind of a dragnet or zero tolerance program that was looking at a hotspot. This was laser-focused on those individuals that were using guns to commit violent crimes. To date, we've seized well over 100 weapons. We've arrested, I believe, 62 individuals and have filed about 150 violent crime charges. I feel like the program is working. It continues. And these are the types of things that we're doing. But it's not just about making arrests, it's about engaging the community. And that's what I've been doing as well.”

On systemic racism in policing

Avery Moore: “Systemic racism is not something you run away from. You have to be willing to have tough discussions about it. … We have to be willing to not just have pleasant conversations, but we've got to be willing to take on those topics that may be unpleasant. And racism, unfortunately, is real. ... In my life and in my career, I've been stopped. I've seen people abused, some of them my family members. Part of the reason I became a police officer was because my uncle was arrested and he was beaten. And I saw that and I made a promise that I would make a mark that couldn't be erased. And I'm proud to say that I've done that, and I want to continue to do that here in Austin.”

Emada Tingirides: “In order to have a successful relationship, we have to understand one another, and we have to understand each other's culture, how people feel, and take that into consideration as we go about communicating and working internally and externally out in the community. I talked a lot about culture and at the root of some of the civil unrest, it was really built upon people feeling like they've been ignored. Systemic racism within organizations such as our education system, our housing system. ... As a police chief, it's extremely important that my officers understand the temperament and what the community wants to see in their police officers. It's also important that they understand their community. When you talk about racism, institutional racism, that means everybody's bad, that it's institutionalized.

I don't believe that the Austin Police Department is institutionalized with a bunch of police officers that are racist. What I do believe is, if there's not an equal playing field and individuals don't feel like they have the same opportunities, like career development. ... As a police chief, I'm going to ... put together a robust leadership program to bring officers in from day one and find out what they want to do in their career. ... And that way there isn't a perception that there is bias or racism within the organization, but we're working together to give everybody that same opportunity.”

Joseph Chacon, a candidate to become Austin's next police chief, has been interim chief since Brian Manley's departure.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Joseph Chacon, a candidate to become Austin's next police chief, has been interim chief since Brian Manley's departure.

Joseph Chacon: “Over the last several years, we have put on a number of courses that have to do with racial inequities, identifying implicit bias, having officers understand what that is so that they can identify it and make sure that it doesn't affect the way that they deliver police services. The newest course that we have instituted, and that I am leading right now, is the groundwater analysis course. … We're looking at whole institutions to see where we have unwittingly created bias in these systems that makes it tougher for communities of color and for communities that have been marginalized.”

Their vision for APD

Avery Moore: “Austin's a good police department. I want us to be great. The ultimate goal is that we be the greatest. I believe that somebody has to be the greatest police department in the country. Why not us? I believe we can. I think that we can work together — local government, community, police department — and that's what we can accomplish.”

Emada Tingirides: “I want to be a chief of this city and I want what you all want. We want a safe, clean environment, a positive quality of life, a place where our children can go to school and thrive, to build our community capacity so that people can become leaders in their own community and to serve this city the way it deserves to be served.”

Joseph Chacon: “My vision really is built around procedural justice. I have been over the last five months getting in front of as many officers as I can to talk about what procedural justice is, the fact that we're treating people with dignity and respect, the fact that when we go out and we have interactions that we take our time, explain what we're doing, and to the greatest extent possible, give those that we're interacting with an opportunity to have voice in that encounter, that we display trustworthy motives and we deliver services in a fair and impartial way.”

You can watch Wednesday night's forum here and Thursday night's here.

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