Southwest Austin Dripping Springs Edition | January 2023


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APD to address sex crimes response flaws after audit

APD RESPONSE AUDITED A review of Austin sex crimes cases found many shortcomings with police responses.


survivors, for $875,000. In a Dec. 28 memo, APD Chief Joseph Chacon said an “intensive review” of sex crime procedures is underway based on the PERF report and its 100-plus proposed improvements. Chacon also said the department is taking a long-term, multidisciplinary approach to any changes with input from area stake- holders such as The SAFE Alliance nonprot and county law enforce- ment and attorney’s oces. “APD and its community stakehold- ers view the PERF report as a starting point to create a deep and meaningful cultural shift regarding sexual assault and recognize that these changes will take years to be fully successful,” Chacon wrote. In its report, PERF said the APD showed a willingness to work with analysts and correct aspects of its operations, and noted some

54% of sex crimes were prioritized as nonurgent.

Detectives visited a crime scene or hospital in 17% of cases, and detectives interviewed victims 51% of the time.

One-quarter of cases were exceptionally cleared—closed without an arrest—and 64% were incorrectly closed.

AUSTIN A series of shortcomings within the Austin Police Depart- ment’s Sex Crimes Unit has yet to be addressed despite some recent progress, according to a review of nearly 1,500 sexual assault investiga- tions by the APD. The deep dive was commissioned by city leaders in 2019 after concerns about the APD’s sex crimes practices built up over several years. The eval- uation, led by the Police Executive Research Forum, produced a report detailing problems such as “systemic issues” in the forensics lab, a backlog of rape kits and the improper closure of cases without making an arrest— and many proposed xes. The report’s release came after Austin settled lawsuits against the city for systemic failures in the APD’s response to sex crime cases, including alleged bias and mistreatment of

Note: Data covers cases from 2012-20.


“encouraging” signs in the latter years of the study period covering 2012-20. However, they also pointed to a need to rebuild community trust and cited lacking procedures from initial police responses to victim interviews and investigations that validated long- held concerns of local advocates. Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter, who led City Council’s call for the evalu- ation in 2019, said strides have been made and that she is hopeful the police department is moving in the right direction with more work still to be done.

“If we do these things, we can really move the needle so that some- one who has this traumatic expe- rience of being sexually assaulted, when they enter into the system, they will feel like they have been treated with dignity and that they are on the path to healing and justice,” Alter said. Chacon said the coming months will see the APD continue its collab- oration with organizations in the local Sexual Assault Response and Resource Team with a focus on PERF recommendations.

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