Local NewsInterim Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon Hired to Lead Department Permanently

Chacon has played a leading role in Austin's efforts to "reimagine" its police department since taking over on an interim basis in March.
September 22, 2021
Six months into its vacancy, Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk announced the hiring of current interim police chief Joseph Chacon as the department’s head moving forward.

Chacon was named interim chief after former Chief Bryan Manley announced his retirement in February and stepped down officially in March. Chacon was one of three finalists for the job after a nationwide search.

An over 20-year veteran with the Austin Police Department (APD), Chacon will have to be confirmed by the city council on September 30.

“In my experience working with Chief Chacon, I see his understanding and [he is] committed to reimagining how we provide public safety to our community,” City Manager Spencer Cronk said on Wednesday.

Chacon added, “Austin PD is at a critical juncture, and I am honored that the City Manager is showing the trust in me to lead this amazing organization.”

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“APD’s relationship with the community needs a reset.”

Chacon then touted some of the changes he’s brought to the department during the interim period, including shortening the body camera footage release time from 60 days down to under 10 days and restructuring the department’s training academy from “one that is paramilitary in nature to one that is based in an adult learning environment.”

He also plugged specifically the “Groundwater Analysis” program, a program imbued with Critical Race Theory teachings, that has become a part of the intradepartmental trainings as well as in the academy.

The city entered into a $10,000 per day contract with Joyce James Consulting for that program that could cost up to $2.9 million.

The vacancy came after multiple years of tension between the city’s police department, its elected officials, and various factions of activists in the city. That tension heightened last year when the city council implemented a $150 million budget cut and redirection from the APD.

The city has also faced a substantial increase in its homicide rate that began before the budget cut but has now set an all-time record in a year with more than three months remaining in 2021.

Last week, Chacon named three main contributors to the rising homicide rate: illegally owned gun use, personal recognizance bond policies, and low department staffing levels.

APD is currently short at least a few hundred patrol officers from its levels two years ago and has been losing 15 to 20 officers per month. There have been multiple instances of officers with close-to-retirement service time buying out their last few years to reach eligibility.

Some have cited internal department leadership as a contributing factor. When asked about that, Chacon told The Texan, “I can tell you that while we have seen record numbers of people leaving, we have seen record numbers of people applying.”

“And we have more applications for our police academy than we have ever seen.”

On the ballot this November is a ballot initiative that would, among other things, require APD to be staffed at two officers per 1,000 residents, a metric from which it falls far below.

Additionally, back in March Chacon testified in front of the Texas House State Affairs Committee on House Bill 1900 that set punishments for cities deemed to have defunded their police departments. During that, Chacon defended the city council’s 2020 budget cut.

Chacon is among those being investigated, along with his assistant chief, by the city manager for an allegation of witness tampering in the Daniel Perry case involving the shooting of Garrett Foster during one of the protests in the summer of 2020.

No results of the investigation have yet been released.

Mayor Steve Adler joined Cronk in supporting Chacon’s nomination, stating, “We applaud [Chacon’s] proactive response to national trends in gun violence, his data driven approach to staffing levels, and his integrity in opposing Proposition A including trying to fix misinformation about the state of public safety in Austin.”

The Austin Police Association (APA) demurred, saying after the announcement that it was disappointed in the selection and that its members preferred another candidate, Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Emada Tingirides.

“Officers looked forward to having an outside perspective and a renewed vision for our department from a strong female leader who has seen struggle first-hand in some of the most trying environments and overcame those challenges,” they said

“She has a proven track record of engaging the community to accomplish a measurable decline in violent crime — something Austin is seeing on the rise.”

Chacon is set to officially take over the 1,800 officer department struggling to keep current employees while massively overhauling the training process in the midst of community disarray and a homicide wave.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.

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