Art Acevedo says he won't take job overseeing Austin Police
Former Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said he is no longer joining city leadership.
City leaders on Friday announced Acevedo would take on a new role overseeing policing. The decision sparked controversy and came as a surprise to some local officials and social justice advocates. Acevedo served as head of the city's police department from 2007 until 2016, when he left to take a job as police chief in Houston.
In a new statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, Acevedo said he has shared his decision not to accept the job with interim City Manager Jesús Garza.
“While I continue to admire and support these leaders of the Austin community, it is clear that this newly created position has become a distraction from the critical work ahead for our city," Acevedo said.
Acevedo's history in Austin is complicated
Critics of Acevedo have highlighted his complicated history with the city. While he was police chief it was discovered that several hundred rape kits had gone untested. The kits are used to collect and preserve DNA evidence when there's an allegation of sexual assault. The city has since caught up on the testing kits and settled a nearly $1 million lawsuit with victims who alleged the city mishandled their cases.
The city publicly apologized to sexual assault victims this afternoon just minutes after Acevedo announced he was withdrawing from the position. Acevedo’s return had been a concern among many victims and people who are committed to the work. Interim Assistant City Manager Bruce Mills called the timing unfortunate.
“The timing we chose to offer Acevedo to come back in to assist us in the challenges we have with the police department is unfortunate, but I think to pin it on one individual is unfair, and it's not appropriate,” Mills said.
Several council members told KUT that Acevedo's appointment was concerning and undermined the work that the city had done to improve its response to sexual assaults.
Council Member José 'Chito' Vela said he was relieved Acevedo would not be taking the job after all.
“I don't know if Mr. Acevedo would've been the right person for the job,” Vela told KUT. “In the sense that he is clearly a very skilled person, but I am not sure that what we were asking him to do really fits with what his skills are.”
Council Member Alison Alter said everyone agrees that the police department is facing several challenges and more support is needed to get the department back on track with staffing.
“The question is how do we do that, and what resources are needed?” Alter told KUT. “I do not believe the process, the position or the person, in this case with Mr. Acevedo, was up to that task. His appointment would have undermined trust in the community and among officers as well. … This was not the right step forward.”
What comes next is still being determined
Mills said there are a lot of options for the city to explore as it works to improve the relationship with APD and focus on the police department, but it is not yet clear what that would look like or whether council members would have a say in that decision.
Several council members expressed frustrations with being left out of the hiring process. Mills said that, ultimately, the decision on how to move forward will be up to the city manager.
“The city manager makes the decision on hiring and makes the decision on when to communicate hiring, and sometimes that is held pretty close until the decision is made,” Mills said.
Alter and Vela told KUT they would both be working closely with the city manager's office to ensure the council is more involved in the process.
"[Acevedo] was not the right person, but the idea of having an assistant city manager who just focuses on police that is an interesting idea and one that we should discuss further," Vela said.