Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo Had a Bad Weekend

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For Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, the past few days have not been what one might describe as banner days. On Thursday morning, during a jaywalking enforcement exercise, a young woman near the University of Texas campus was addressed by an officer for crossing against the light while jogging. She had headphones on at the time—as many joggers do—and a witness claims that she didn’t hear the officer who called to her. Moments later, witnesses say, the officer grabbed her arm as she continued jogging. At that point, the jogger recoiled from the stranger grabbing her from behind, leading the officer to handcuff her, call over three fellow officers, and finally arrest the young woman for failure to identify herself. 

The story attracted a lot of attention, for a few reasons: There’s video, taken by UT student Chris Quintero, who watched the encounter from across the street and began filming once the jogger was cuffed and on the ground; the jogger in question is a petite, blonde woman in pigtails—the cultural definition of “non-threatening”; and her reasons for failing to initially respond to the officer are believable (many joggers exercise while listening to headphones, and many people would jerk away from someone who grabbed their arm, if they didn’t know it was a police officer). 

People can argue over the appropriateness of the behavior of everyone involved in the incident. Jaywalking actually is a problem near the UT campus, and the jogger, who spends much of the video screaming and crying, did not put her best face forward once she was handcuffed. The crime for which she was ultimately arrested—refusing to tell her name to the officers who had detained her—is a law for a reason (it’s hard for police to carry out their duties if they don’t know the identity of the person they’ve detained). But on the other hand, it’s four police officers hauling a screaming young woman into a police car in an incident that started because she crossed the street before the light was green. 

As the story developed on Friday into local news, however, things got worse for Acevedo. As MyFoxAustin reports, he addressed the incident, and defended his officers in a curious manner: 

“Whether or not he grabbed her by behind it doesn’t…it’s not relevant! At some point she knows it’s a cop! The cop asked her a lawful question that she is lawfully required to answer and she didn’t! That’s why she went to jail,” Acevedo said.

Acevedo says the woman was only arrested for failure to identify, not resisting arrest. He says if he had arrested her, he wouldn’t have been so generous.

“At the end of the day, that officer has to stop them somehow. He didn’t tackle her to the ground, you know, it’s kind of interesting what passes for controversy in Austin, Texas. Thank you Lord that there’s a controversy in Austin, Texas that we actually had the audacity to touch somebody by the arm and tell them ‘Oh my goodness, Austin Police, we’re trying to get your attention.’ Whew! In other cities, cops are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas,” Acevedo said.

The bolded sentence quickly came under scrutiny. One might guess that it was a shot at San Antonio, which fired an officer earlier this month over accusations for the very thing Acevedo describes. But what raised the ire of the public is the fact that the police chief of a major city chose to defend an incident in which four of his officers carried a screaming young woman to a police car over a minor offense by essentially saying, “At least they didn’t rape anybody.” 

It’s a strange bit of logic, to say the least. It is good that there aren’t currently any pending sexual assault accusations against on-duty APD officers, to be certain, but the fact that the police chief went there when explaining how good people in Austin have it is troubling. 

This isn’t the first time that Acevedo has made curious public statements, either. After the 2012 murder of 29-year-old Esme Barrera (which resulted in an outporing of grief from the community) and the subsequent suicide of James Loren Brown—the case’s primary suspect—Acevedo speculated that “the exposure in the case applied by the public and officers may have contributed to Brown’s suicide,” which was strange speculation from the police chief, given that Brown left no note.

In the case of the jogger, however, Chief Acevedo seemed to recognize that his wording wasn’t appropriate and offered an apology online

Yesterday’s press conference related to the arrest of a jogger by members of the Austin Police Department (APD) was the culmination of an emotional week for the APD, our extended APD family and me personally.  
During the press conference I attempted to place the arrest into context by bringing attention to the fact that law enforcement deals with many acts of serious misconduct. This includes recent instances in the news of sexual assault by police officers in other cities.
In hindsight I believe the comparison was a poor analogy, and for this I apologize.  I stand committed to transparent leadership and will continue to engage the community we serve in an open, honest, and timely manner.

The “emotional week” that Acevedo refers to includes the trial of Brandon Daniel, who was convicted this week of capital murder for killing an Austin police officer. That understandably does raise emotions in law enforcement, but if Acevedo is willing to cite heated emotions as the reason he employed that bizarre defense for his officers, we might also suggest that he consider if those same emotions may have led to an overreaction in how they handled the situation with the jaywalker. 

(photo via Chris Quintero)

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  • William Sturman

    Capitol murder? Shouldn’t capitol be capitalized?

    • J. Davis

      Actually, Penal Code Section 19.03, defines the offense of “Capital Murder.”
      Perhaps Mr. Solomon, the author of the article, thought Brandon Daniel had killed the domed building at 11th and Congress in downtown Austin.

  • Allenna

    Bottom line, the moronic little brat committed an offense, and added to HER plight by refusing to identify herself and struggled with the officers. Maybe the freakin little crybaby will pay more attention to her surroundings. SHE IS THE ONE IN THE WRONG IN THIS INSTANCE! NO ONE TO BLAME BUT HERSELF!

    • Robert Turk

      I’m sorry, but on what basis are you calling this young woman a “moronic little brat”?

      • Halliwellfamily

        My guess would be the screaming of “I didn’t do anything wrong” over and over again and then just screaming. That’s what kids do.

        • Robert Turk

          I’m still not sure how this makes her either “moronic”, or “little”, or a “brat”.

          • Michael Smith

            Well let’s address each-

            Moron- someone of lesser intelligence, ie someone who does something wrong and refuses to acknowledge said wrongdoing. A more intelligent person would recognize their mistake.

            Little- she is tiny, I mean not comically so, but she is of a small stature

            Brat-A child who behaves very badly; she is a human, and therefor by definition a child of someone’s and was breaking the law and therefor behaving badly.

            Not sure how you are failing to make the connection here.

          • Robert Turk

            You’re a name-calling bully. Congratulations.

          • Michael Smith

            How am I a name calling bully? I did not call anyone a name or bully them. I simply explained to you the above comment because you seemed lost as to why the person would use those adjectives. Also the person who did the so called “name-calling” also is not a bully. Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively impose domination over others. The person did not in anyway threaten, coerce or abuse the person being described. They simply stated their opinion of the persons actions, as I outlined above their opinions are both objectively and subjectively correct.
            Insulting me only furthers the thought process that instead of having a rational argument over the facts you have retreated to insults. Personal attacks are often the result of internal knowledge of incorrectness. I would surmise that either you know you are wrong and have no valid argument or you are simply bored and trolling for attention.
            Furthermore you should limit your personal scope and definition of the term “bully”, too often this term is so loosely thrown around that when actual bullying is seen/occurs it is lessened because people begin to think of the tiniest infractions as bullying. This leads to the desensitization of people to the very real problem of actual bullying.

          • Robert Turk

            Oh, you were just explaining the words used, like a dictionary. Congrats. You’re a dictionary then.

          • Matthew Arntzen

            Not a very good one either…

          • Matthew Arntzen

            Lots of us have dictionaries. Can you come up with something other than dictionary definitions?

      • Jim Porter

        Probably based that on her toe shoes.

    • Cryptical D

      Shut up stupid

    • errxn

      Because clearly, the part of this story that should have everyone up in arms is the fact that a UT coed was jaywalking in the most pedestrian-dense area of the city, and not the part where the chief of police defended the actions of his officers by telling the citizens of Austin that they should just shut the hell up and be happy that at least the officers didn’t sexually assault her, right?

      Erm, no.

      • txcb123

        great point. Acevedo clearly needs help in the communications dept.

        • errxn

          True, but where he could REALLY use some help is in the Professional Ethics, Megalomania, and Remembering Just Who The Hell Is Paying Your Salary departments.

        • Sam Spade

          He needs to be a meter maid wearing a skirt.

    • Nickolas Means

      She’s not required by state law to identify herself until she’s arrested. It’s not enough just to detain her. Here’s the relevant law:

      • EGP

        Keep reading that statute. The second part of that includes lawfully detained, which she was. Think traffic stop. You are not arrested then but are still required to give your name.

        • Nickolas Means

          Read 38.02(b) a little closer. The only thing forbidden when detained is falsifying your identity. Refusing to identify yourself until arrested is well within your rights.

        • Sam Spade

          Maybe they should detain some of the border trash coming through illegally if that is the case.

    • Matthew Arntzen

      Don’t even have the ‘nads to use a real account huh?

  • Robert Turk

    Chief Acevedo’s statement is telling. This is an attempt to diffuse criticism of a questionable action by the police personnel. The young woman should sue the City and ensure that there are joggers and people who wear headphones or earbuds on the jury. It is entirely reasonable that she didn’t hear the officer or know who was grabbing at her person, and her reaction is completely legitimate. Police don’t get to grab citizens they’re supposedly protecting and serving.

    • Halliwellfamily

      Obviously with no video it’s hard to know what happened when the cop grabbed her arm. Yes, she probably freaked out that someone grabbed her arm while she was jogging but at the same time when you realize it is a cop she should have stopped and said told them something along the lines of “sorry, I didn’t hear you with my headphones on” then tell them who she is so they can issue a citation. Most cops (not all) are pretty reasonable and understand when people stop and explain a simple mistake. And yes, police protect and serve but it is also their job to enforce the laws.

      • Robert Turk

        According to eyewitness accounts, one cop grabbed at her arm, and she pulled away because she didn’t see it was a cop (note that cops can’t just grab free citizens, as far as I know) and she proceeded to continue jogging. Then the cops had to run after her and tackle her, which was why the situation was escalated and the commotion attracted attention from other witnesses, including a man with a camera phone. You can claim that this is okay for cops to tackle someone who they tried to grab who was jogging, but I don’t agree with you. When there is a jury trial, we shall see who can convince 12 Austinites that the cops behavior was okay, or not.

        • Sam Spade

          It should be considered battery by touch or strike just like if the rolls were reversed.

  • Asher B. Garber

    Austin Police tend to consider the people of Austin as fools. Maybe that has something to do with Austin Police not necessarily living in Austin, or maybe it has something to do with Austin Police maintaining a policy of an IQ limit and not minimum, but chances are it’s a combination of both.

  • JTexas

    I guess the measurement of a good officer in Austin is not raping the girl that was arrested for an infraction. In that measure well done APD. In the real world failure to identify is not an arrestable offense in Austin. It is only after another arrestable charge is filed can the officers tack that on. In which jaywalking is an infraction and is not mentioned. APD fail. come up with a better excuse APD.

  • Sabennaba

    “…If Acevedo is willing to cite heated emotions as the reason he employed that bizarre defense for his officers, we might also suggest that he consider if those same emotions may have led to an overreaction in how they handled the situation with the jaywalker.” I would further add that heated emotions likely led the jaywalker (whom many have called an “entitled brat”) to recoil and behave as she did. Cops would be advised to have a bit of compassion for a perfectly natural reaction. Do they learn techniques to calm panicked offenders and diffuse these kinds of situations? At this point, only the cops have had their say in this situation. Perhaps we should withhold judgement of the offender until she gets a chance to speak for herself.

  • disqus_4rkfjeknbO

    What did the officers do once she realized they were cops? Did they talk to her calmly or yell/act aggressively? If they told her something like “calm down” and spoke to her calmly then her reaction was ridiculous. Otherwise, I can understand why she was shaken up.

  • Sir_Elton_Juan

    Austin’s police dept is clearly losing in the field of public relations, if the only requirement to become an Austin city police is to make an arrest in that fashion, then pretty much anyone can become one since there isn’t any special skills shown here, last time I checked their motto is “to protect and to serve” or maybe I’m just wrong and reality is that we have become a police state with very little tolerance for misdemeanors such a “jaywalking.” Is it too challenging for a cop to dialogue and try to clear the air before putting on handcuffs just like that, or maybe we are unfortunate to have a police dept that has a culture that has been tainted by intolerant and burned out police officers under the “leadership” of Art Acevedo?

  • Charlie

    This is unbelievable!! The young girl is on a run and grabbed from behind as she is running. The cops are stopping her because she ran before the light turned green. This means that she in fact at one point stopped before proceeding. From the looks of the cops in the picture they do not know what it is like to be running and what it would feel like as a young or older girl to be grabbed. I am sure she was surprised and then scared. They abused their authority and will now insist it was for her protection. They hauled her away in a police car because she did not tell them name quick enough???? Well, good job cops!! Take a good look at the picture and feel proud of all four of you who showed up and traumatized this girl.

    This incident probably would have been a lot smoother if they had approached from the front and questioned her appropriately. She was clearly not in danger at the point and definitely not causing anyone else problems.

  • jefsr

    SAPD Chief McManus is having a bad life.

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    County, and could impact judges and attorneys at the state and federal level.”
    – Collier- KENS5 News – 2/21/2014

    Over the past several months US Attorney Yarbrough-New Mexico District and
    others have been provided with proof of corruption within San Antonio Tx
    government, Bexar County Tx government, Judge Antonia Arteaga’s 57th District
    Court, Judge Xavier Rodriguez’s Federal Court, Bexar County DA Susan Reed’s
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    CPR Worldwide Media broke the story to the Nation and by popular demand is
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    are being readied for release…..much more to come.

  • Tom

    Looks like Austin police need to lay off the donuts…I’m surprised they were able to catch up with her considering their hefty girths….

  • Nickolas Means

    Here’s the thing: Texas state law doesn’t require you to identify yourself until you’re actually arrested. Police can’t force you to identify yourself simply by detaining you. Here’s the relevant bit of law:

    • Sands77

      Some of you think you know the law, but you really don’t. You’re required to identify yourself to the police if you’re stopped for committing a criminal offense in the presence of the police (yes, jaywalking is a criminal offense). If not, anyone stopped for, well, anything, would just tell the officer “My name is none of your business” and walk/drive off.

      Edit to add: You are technically under arrest when the police stop you for committing a criminal offense. What keeps you from going to jail is your signature on a citation indicating that you promise to appear in court.

      • Nickolas Means

        It all depends on what the officers told her and when. If she was never told what she was suspected of, then she was not under arrest. She can be pretty clearly heard in the video yelling “I didn’t do anything wrong! I just crossed the street!” It’s unclear if the officers ever told her she was being detained for jaywalking or just escalated straight to “failure to identify” because of her perceived resistance.

        • Alexander

          I wonder if the lack of another charge on the arrest will allow this to be dismissed? I’d assume that if the prerequisite is that you’re under arrest, there would be a charge to back that up.

          From my perspective, I believe she is probably guilty of fleeing the police in some manner. If an officer is approaching you for an infraction and you run away, they’re going to take you down. While I understand that the cop is not the arbiter, and is there purely to enforce the laws as best as they can be applied, our legal system is inherently corrupt.

          Even a minor offense: 8-16 hours in jail, a non-refundable bail deposit (assuming you don’t have a large amount of liquid cash), an arrest record, all prior to conviction, dismissal, or proof of innocence. In my mind, if a cop inherently cannot have the capabilities of an arbiter, every non-violent crime should be handled with a ticket and a court date. Although, that might not be so beneficial for bottom-line of our protectors.

      • Sam Spade

        Jay Walking is a non criminal offense.

  • errxn

    Does anyone else remember another one of Acevedo’s “curious public statements” a while back, in which he basically issued a veiled threat of “investigation” (whatever that means) against anyone who dared criticize him or the APD via social media?

  • Jasbevo

    I see people bouncing off of cars all the time down there. Quit crying ya bunch of babies. She screwed up and went to jail for it.

    • Dartmouth ’11

      Next time you walk across the street at any location other than a street sign, I hope you realize the ridiculous nature of your suggestion and I doubt you’ll end up in prison for failure to identify over it.

  • Steven Giles

    Shooting family pets, terrorizing jay walkers, when will this guy go back to California?

    • txcb123

      I’m surprised LAPD hasn’t offered him a job yet.

  • Hannah

    “The jogger in question is a petite, blonde woman in pigtails—the definition of ‘non-threatening'” WOW. Really, Dan Solomon? If the jogger had been a large black male wearing a hoodie and listening to loud music, these officers would have been justified in feeling threatened? What if the jogger were an olive-skinned woman with an afro?

    • Cristina Herrera

      When I wear pigtails, I become a sword-wielding barbarian, slashing at anything and everything! Pigtails make me most threatening. ;P

      • Robert Turk

        THIS!!! Love it…

  • CS

    Just this weekend there was a shooting a block from the police station along an area of Sixth Street that Acevedo said would have more cops patrolling it. That was Operation Safe Passage. From what I’ve seen it only involves parking an empty car near I-35 and 6th and leaving the lights running. Acevedo and APD are a joke. They should stick to what they’re good at; shooting family pets and not preventing real crimes.

  • Gary Stratton

    Everybody just calm down and think about what happened. The girl broke the law… that is what started it. When told to stop and she didn’t (for whatever reason) and caused the officer to have to stop her. She wouldn’t identify herself… why? If she had simply acted as a rational adult they likely would have let her go with a warning… but…

    • Grieving family

      You don’t know they would have let her go with a warning… She was scared. In Austin, that’s enough of a reason to shoot citizens, much less, not identify herself. Keep thinking that Austin doesn’t have an excessive force issue… Idiot!

    • Sam Spade

      Too bad the thugs didn’t act professional.

  • Brenda Jones

    Robert Turk …sue the City??? Why is that always the answer? Good grief, she is at home now and everyone’s fine, she wasn’t injured. The cops probably could have handled this better but for that matter, so could she. They were all adults. What is suing someone gonna prove? Ridiculous!!!

    • Robert Turk

      Yes. Sue the city. Because if there isn’t a financial impact, APD will not change.

  • Porkey

    After viewing the photo I have an urge to visit Crispy Cream.

  • Dallas

    This chief needs to be FIRED!!!!!! And picking on an innocent girl jogging is acting like a bunch of bullies. My God, what do they do to the mentally ill or homeless?! I can only imagine. Clean house Austin! Clean house…

  • Jameika

    So all of this is very disturbing. The girl did something wrong and the police overreacted.

    I do have a problem with this sentence: “the jogger in question is a petite, blonde woman in pigtails—the definition of ‘non-threatening'”

    So, had she been a young black girl, all of this would have been understandable?

    I think you should work on our definitions of ‘non-threatening’ before you’re mugged by a white girl with pigtails because all you saw was a non-threat.

  • 38.02

    Texas Penal Code 38.02 states that unless she is under arrest for another crime she does not have to identify herself.

    • Sands77

      Oh brother. The moment the police stop you for committing a crime in their presence you are under arrest. You are not free to leave and you must identify yourself. A written citation is what keeps you from being handcuffed and taken to jail. And the officer can’t issue a citation if you refuse to give your information.

  • Leonard Smalls

    Wearing headphones while jay-jogging, little miss “definition of ‘non-threatening'” is lucky she didn’t get hit by a car whose horn and tires she didn’t hear screeching. Be a blubbering crybaby. Or, be defiant to “the man!” Either is pretty silly, given the circumstances. But being both is goofier than those shoes she’s wearing. And, yes, if this is what passes for police controversy in Austin, things could be a lot worse.

  • Dani Way

    Jaywalking is a “problem”? Have you guys ever been to a growing city or to one that has reached full capacity? Oh, you Texans and your slow processing minds. Austin is growing, meaning the foot traffic is going to become more prevalent… meaning that regardless of how many jaywalking “exercises” you attempt to grab attention about jaywalking being a problem, people who couldn’t give any fucks will continue flowing into this city and doing just that. Get over it. Austin police force is a joke. They should just continue hanging out at Caffe Medici and confiscating petty amounts of marijuana from homeless people, like they were originally trained to do.

  • Alexander

    I’d like to point out that if she was arrested for ‘Failure to Identify’ it is not a legal arrest, as the law dictates that you must be first under arrest and refuse to identify yourself. Just being detained and refusing to identify yourself is not a crime, however, being detained and giving false information is.

  • $160578

    “Yesterday’s press conference related to the arrest of a
    jogger by members of the Austin Police Department (APD) was the
    culmination of an emotional week for the APD, our extended APD family and me personally.”

    Arrest somebody for no good reason. Strip search an old lady. Beat a
    teen. Plant drugs on a suspect. Get three people killed in a car wreck
    because you’re chasing somebody who stole a six pack. Shoot up a
    newspaper deliveryman’s truck because it “looks like” one driven by a
    wanted felon. Pepper spray somebody for filming you.

    You’ll feel better.

  • upa yours

    Fire him and the 4 fat slobs!

  • mary ann

    I had the opportunity to interact with one of the many Austin police officers a few years ago. He was rude, condescending and threatened to arrest me over a parking violation. (Evidently there are spaces that are only for APD use after 9pm. I was coming from dinner at 9:05pm.) He had already called, and had my vehicle hooked up, to a tow truck. After pleading with the tow truck driver, he, not the cop, unhooked my car. When I asked where the sign was that said I couldn’t park there, he pointed to one ACROSS THE STREET. I’ve never gone downtown for dinner again.

  • Nunuvyer Bizniz

    Big time criminal! They should have called out the swat team and shot her to death. Or used a choke hold on her and suffocated her! How dare she jaywalk! Freeking criminal!

  • Matthew Arntzen

    He’s still working for APD?

  • Sam Spade

    Austin has a punk and Bloomberg shill for a Chief of Police. He cam out of California and probably has McNamara’s Byotch tattooed on his butt.