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Austin begins national search for city's next police chief

Austin has been without a permanent police chief since Joseph Chacon left in September.
James Christenson
KUT News
Austin has been without a permanent police chief since Joseph Chacon left in September.

Austin has officially launched a national search for a new police chief, city officials announced Wednesday. The position was posted online and will remain open until June 10.

The search for a new police chief is one of the first major tasks that new city manager T.C. Broadnax will be taking on. He began his new role May 6.

He said finding someone to lead the police department was a top priority for him.

“Public safety is of paramount importance, not just to me and the Mayor and City Council, but to Austin as a whole,” Broadnax said in a written statement. “My commitment to this community is to find the absolute best candidate for this critical role. I want to ensure that I bring forward someone who will build trust and foster a culture of transparency and accountability.”

Mosaic Public Partners, the search firm that helped find Broadnax, will assist in the search.

City officials told KUT the city manager made the decision to hire Mosaic and did not require City Council approval. The cost for the search is $59,000.

The city has been without a permanent police chief since Joseph Chacon retired in September. Robin Henderson has been serving as interim chief and has not announced if she will apply for the permanent job.

"I am very much enjoying serving as Interim Police Chief, making great strides within our department and the Austin community we serve," Henderson said. "I look forward to the process and evaluating my next steps."

Filling the role

Finding the right person for the job is a top priority for many involved in the hiring process.

Council Member Ryan Alter said he will be looking at candidates who best align with the values of Austin, including community policing, police oversight and staffing shortages.

“I think it's also really important we have somebody who is open to change and reform,” Alter said. “We have a department that is, I believe, making some important strides, but there are still improvements we need to make.”

He said the right person will also focus on community safety. Council Member Mackenzie Kelly agreed saying the new chief will "play a vital role in ensuring the safety and well-being of our community."

"Together, we will work towards selecting a qualified and dedicated individual who will lead the department with integrity, transparency, and a commitment to serving and protecting the residents of Austin," Kelly said.

Council Member Vanessa Fuentes said she hopes to find a leader with a proven record of fostering safe, welcoming and equitable communities.

"Our ideal Chief would excel in leadership while nurturing community guardians committed to building trust and safety in our neighborhoods," Fuentes said.

The Austin Police Association, the police union, will also be involved in the process, said Michael Bullock, president of the APA.

“We are having an issue retaining people, and the people who are currently here are your best recruiters,” Bullock said. “No matter who takes on this role, they have to have that in mind, and realize that the best way to serve the city and address a lot of our issues, is to make sure you focus on taking care of the officers that are still here.”

The department has been facing staffing shortages. And officers have been without a long-term labor contract for more than a year. But Bullock said there are a lot of other needs — like training, pay, and equipment — within the department that they hope a new chief will also be able to address.

“I think that everybody understands, that whoever comes in and fills the permanent role, this is not an easy time to come in,” Bullock said. “There are a lot of irons in the fire that we have as pending projects and things that need to be addressed.”

The police chief has a large role to play in the community. The chief will manage more than 1,800 officers and 500 professional staff members with a $478 million budget. The chief’s executive leadership team includes a chief of staff and five assistant chiefs of police, according to the job post.

A survey will be released next week to gather input from the community. Several interview panels with community members, law enforcement personnel and city leaders will be part of the hiring process. Additionally, a community meet and greet will be scheduled with finalists for the job. The city will announce more as it becomes available.

While Broadnax will select the person to do the job, council members do have to approve it.

Luz Moreno-Lozano is the Austin City Hall reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @LuzMorenoLozano.
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