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U.S. Department of Justice

DOJ denies City of Austin request to review police policies following unarmed shooting

The U.S. Department of Justice denied a City of Austin request Wednesday for review of Austin Police Department policy following the July 26 shooting of Larry Eugene Jackson Jr., an unarmed black man.
U.S. Department of Justice

The U.S. Department of Justice denied a request Wednesday from City of Austin Manager Marc Ott asking it to review Austin Police Department policies in response to a July 26 department shooting of an unarmed black man.

In a Thursday letter to Ott, Jonathan Smith, Cheif of the Special Litigation Section of the Department of Justice, said the City of Austin has the systems in place to handle the situation, citing reccomendations made to the city by the DOJ following allegations of deadly force in 2007.

“Together, the City, the Police Department, and these entities can implement, modify, or enhance current systems to ensure that accountability is robust, and that practice does, in fact, follow police,” Smith said in the letter. “Given the systems Austin has in place, and the work it has already undertaken, this may be the most effective way of renewing community confidence in the Police Department and ensuring continued constitutional policing.”

In a statement from the City of Austin published Friday by the Austin American-Statesman, Ott said he is “grateful” for the Department of Justice’s consideration of the matter, despite its decision to deny his request.

Ott’s request was made in August in response to a July 26 police shooting of an unarmed black man named Larry Eugene Jackson Jr., who was pursued and shot in the back of the neck by Austin Police Department Detective Charles Kleinert after failing to properly identify himself and leaving the scene of an unrelated incident near West 34th Street.

After the shooting, Austin civil rights activists spoke out about the incident, publicly protesting.

According to the city statement, Ott has directed Austin Police Department Chief Art Acevedo to conduct an internal review to determine if APD tactics are consistent with its policies. Ott said in the article that Acevedo is “committed” to reporting his findings in 90 days.

“This is just another opportunity for us to step up to the plate and provide better service than we already do,” Hughes said.

“The DOJ has decided that APD has not engaged in practices that deprive any person rights granted by the laws of the U.S. constitution, but any time the community feels that there is racial bias concerning the actions that we take, we take these concerns very seriously,” APD Lieutenant Edmund Hughes told The Horn.

Hughes said the community is “always the top priority” and APD plans to work with the community to move forward and rebuild trust.

“Our department has always been committed to constant improvement of practices and policies to ensure that we offer the best service possible to the community,” Hughes said.

APD has had multiple open forums since the incident to address concerns from the public, and Hughes said several more are planned.

Local civil rights activist and motivational speaker Chas Moore told The Horn in a Friday statement that he is unhappy with APD’s response to the incident and sees it as a trend within the department.

”Art Acevedo, the same man who once fired an Austin police officer for lying to get a free movie ticket, has been consistent in his refusal to hold APD officers that use deadly force against unarmed black men accountable for their actions,” Moore said, citing the continued employment of officers involved in the death of Larry Jackson and Byron Carter and the department’s decision not to fire Officer Leonardo Quintana for the death of Nathaniel Sanders.

“Now the Department of Justice has essentially said that the APD may continue to pick and choose who it protects and serves,” Moore said.

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