If a police officer saw a crime happening off-duty would you expect them to respond? An APD officer is now suspended for doing just that.
Tuesday afternoon APD Officer Jonathan LaBorde was suspended for violating departmental policy. He chased a robbery suspect that had entered his church. The problem, APD says, is LaBorde kept running after the suspect once uniformed officers arrived.
Back and forth disagreement by two agencies representing the same group, police officers.
"You've taken a hero and you've made him into a zero," said Wayne Vincent, President of Austin Police Association.
"The department stands by its action," said Jason Dusterhoft, Austin Police Department.
Austin Police Officer Jonathan LaBorde was suspended Tuesday afternoon for ten days. This stems from an incident on February 9, when police say LaBorde took action after witnessing a bloody man running through his church. LaBorde was off-duty at the time. He drew his gun and began chasing the suspect.
"The chief's contention that the officer should not have acted in that situation, I think anybody in the community would have expected that officer to act," said Vincent.
APD says off-duty officers should consider waiting for on-duty officers to arrive before intervening. Some factors include: the increased risk to bystanders and lack of equipment.
"We are grateful we are here speaking about corrective action in the form of discipline and training as opposed to the death, serious injury of Officer LaBorde, responding officers or any member of our community," said Dusterhoft.
"We're outraged. We're used to unfairness, we're used to heavy handedness, what we're not used to is absolute dangerous decisions by the chief. What does this do to any officer that's confronted with a critical situation? They're going to hesitate," said Vincent.
This situation is being compared to another one, and raising criticism. It was September of last year when Chief Art Acevedo was pulling into Eddie V's seafood restaurant downtown. That's when a valet attendant asked for his help with a person asleep on their property.
The chief was not in uniform when he went to wake up Michael Fitzsimmons, who was suspected of being drunk. The situation quickly escalated. Acevedo said he was forced to tackle the homeless man to the ground.
"To compare these two totally different circumstances, is comparing oranges and apples. Chief Acevedo's requested intervention ceased immediately upon officers arriving on the scene, whereas Officer LaBorde failed to disengage during two separate occasions when officers arrived on the scene," said Dusterhoft.
"Somebody is going to get killed if we don't start putting logic back into what our leaders do at the police department," said Vincent.
Officer LaBorde can appeal but we're told this would take close to a year to get before a judge. APD says if that is requested, they will fully participate in the process.