APD makes changes to response policies - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

APD makes changes to response policies

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The Austin Police chief changes the consent to search policy and a couple of other response policies that he says will lessen the chances of officer-involved shootings.

Regarding searches, officers who wish to conduct a search when no probable cause exists, they must first call a supervisor or sergeant and explain the situation.

If the supervisor gives the okay, the officer must get video and audio recording of them asking the person in question for permission to search. If the citizen says yes, they must fill out a consent form.

The chief also announced Tuesday a change in the response to moving vehicles. Officers now are not allowed to place themselves in the path of a moving vehicle.

Officers can move from cover to make an arrest, if and only if, the arrest would not pose harm to other officers and the public.

The final change concerns the response to emotionally disturbed citizens. Acevedo referred to the transient population downtown.

Acevedo says if a person shows symptoms of aggression or combative behavior on a scene, four officers and a sergeant will be dispatched. One must be a crisis intervention officer.

Officers must attempt a less than lethal weapon before they shoot.

Acevedo hopes these two adjustments will decrease the likelihood of using deadly force.

The most controversial of the new policies seems to be the search issue. Critics say it will lead to more criminals getting away.

"We've gone through this before under Chief Stan Knee. He required written consent. It just made the consent search that an officer uses more cumbersome and they just quit doing the consent searches. My feel is consent searches will be a thing of the past," said Sgt. Wayne Vincent, Austin Police Association president.

"Sometimes it is better letting one get away than to make 10 innocent people think you're treating them like a criminal," Chief Art Acevedo said.

While the NAACP and Texas Civil Rights Project leaders were on hand to show their appreciation for the changes, they are not withdrawing a complaint they recently filed against APD with the U.S. Department of Justice. The complaint accuses APD officers of using excessive force and racial profiling.

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