Austin is one step closer to getting a new police chief.
City Manager Spencer Cronk says Brian Manley is the sole candidate to take over the reins at the Austin Police Department. Manley served as the longtime second-in-command to his predecessor, Art Acevedo, and was tapped to serve as interim chief after Acevedo’s departure in November 2016.
“I am both honored and humbled to have this opportunity before me," Manley, who has been with the APD for nearly 30 years, said at a news conference tonight. "I look forward to the process. To have been able to serve in this role for the past 17 months has been my greatest honor.”
Manley's investigation of a series of bombings in Austin last month garnered praise from city officials and amplified calls for him to take over on a permanent basis. News of the nomination was first reported by the Austin American-Statesman.
Those calls were echoed this morning by Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who threw her support behind Manley’s nomination as permanent chief.
“His steadfastness as a leader has endeared him not only to those of us who live here, but to people far beyond our famous Austin City Limits,” she said in a statement.
But Chris Harris, a campaigns coordinator for the criminal justice reform group Grassroots Leadership, said residents of the city's East Side – especially people of color – saw law enforcement's handling of the bomb investigation differently.
"It definitely starts with how Anthony House was portrayed initially," he said, "and I think there are still questions about how that impacted the investigation."
House died March 2 when a bomb exploded on his porch. Police initially thought his death was an isolated event and that it was possible he made the bomb himself and accidentally set it off.
Harris called it "odd" that Cronk asked for community input after naming Manley the sole finalist.
Grassroots Leadership and other groups have urged the city to take its time in appointing a new chief and to open up the vetting process to the public. Harris told KUT last month the city should seek public comment on Manley's hire.
“If we don’t take the opportunity to get whomever will be the next chief to be on record as supporting policies that reflect the values of the community," Harris said, "then we’ve lost an extremely valuable opportunity to ensure we improve our police force."
In response to those calls, Cronk has scheduled two community input meetings in May to get feedback on Manley's potential hire. Cronk's office also set up an online survey for Austinites to provide feedback on the search. After the public input process, Cronk will decide whether to hire Manley or open up a national search to find the next head of the Austin Police Department.
“I want this process to be open and transparent,” Cronk said in a statement. “I am confident that by taking some additional time, Austin will benefit in the long run and we will get the very best candidate for the job.”