Investigation Results and Recommendations

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Natasha Harper-Madison
Posts: 10
Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2019 12:52 pm

Investigation Results and Recommendations

Post by Natasha Harper-Madison » Mon Apr 20, 2020 5:35 pm

Good afternoon colleagues,

First off, I want to start by recognizing the incredible work all of you and your staff are doing during these challenging times. I recognize that addressing COVID19 in our communities is all our primary focus now.

Last Friday, we finally got our hands on the long-awaited report from Lisa Tatum on the investigation into the allegations of racism, sexism, and bigotry among the top ranks of APD.

Among other things, the city asked the Tatum Law Firm to investigate claims that a former assistant police chief had frequently used the n- word in text message conversations. While investigators never found that smoking gun, the report is packed with plenty of other highly problematic discoveries, including evidence of racism, failed leadership, cronyism, and a prevailing fear of retaliation that keeps would be whistleblowers silent.

That fear of retaliation along with the challenge of tracking down evidence that can be easily deleted made Tatum’s job a difficult one. As she herself said the job was akin to, “being named an honorary detective who was assigned to investigate an outdoor crime scene after it had rained heavily-twice.”

Nonetheless she was able to bring to light several stunning and damning details that paint a picture of a department in dire need of an institutional overhaul. Even though no racists text messages were uncovered, the report says the former assistant chief and several of his friends on the force were well known for their use of racist language.

Tatum also found fault in APD leadership. Her report indicates that there never would have been an investigation to this matter if Council had not intervened, which is unacceptable. I anticipate this will go under careful consideration and review by the City Manager.

This inaction also offered the former assistant chief the opportunity to resign with a full pension, something he was able to do by way of a tip from a fellow officer.
If this action violates APD policy I hope there will be appropriate attention given to the matter.
These instances of unaccountability fit into a larger pattern identified by Tatum. Her report specifically focused on the 180-day rule that acts a statute of limitations and largely lets officers off the hook for any incident that took place more than six months in the past. The Tatum report tells us this tool is frequently exploited by leadership in order to circumvent addressing complaints against officers.

But even when officers do receive punitive action, the report indicates written reprimands and other documents often vanish. Tatum recommends records retention training to mitigate this. Frankly, I think that’s an optimistic interpretation. To me, the frequency that certain documents go missing indicates a more nefarious problem.

Though there are a great many other problematic findings in the Tatum Report, the one I find personally impactful is the lack of confidence rank-and-file officers have in city leaders to bring about real change in the department.

I want us as a body to regain the trust of those officers and other department personnel as well as that of the residents of our city. Austin deserves a world-class police department that shares a mutual trust and respect among its officers as well as with the community it serves and protects.

The Tatum Report contains many recommendations that the D1 office is looking into and I look forward to working with all of you and the community to create sustainable solutions.

Finally, the closure of this investigation means we have the opportunity now to start work on the broader audit of APD’s culture that this council commissioned in December. It is my sincere hope that findings from that effort will give us even more useful information upon which to build a better APD. We all want the best of the best and providing our officers the workplace they deserve is something that concerns us all. I am looking forward to an update form our CMO on next steps, the scope, the timeline and who exactly will conduct the audit.

Hoping all are well.

Kindly,

Natasha
Natasha Harper-Madison
Council Member District 1