Five years after Art Acevedo was selected to reform a troubled Austin Police Department, it has seen a drop in complaints from residents as well as a rise in officer suspensions, says the Austin American-Statesman. While the number of formal complaints against police by citizens has declined since Acevedo took over in mid-2007, so-called “internal complaints” — formal complaints filed by fellow officers — have increased since 2002, especially under Acevedo’s tenure. The number of officer suspensions per year has nearly doubled since 2002, and the majority of officers fired over the past decade — 23 of 34 — have been terminated under Acevedo’s watch.
These trends come at a time when Austin’s population has grown and the department has added several hundred new officers. The department now has about 1,700 officers. The data indicate, at least on paper, that under Acevedo’s leadership the department has gotten better at policing itself and that citizens are finding fewer reasons to complain about officers — an assessment that the chief’s supporters as well as harshest critics say they agree with. For his part, Acevedo, who has often touted himself as a “reform chief,” said the changes indicate a culture shift at the department. Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum praised Acevedo on several fronts, including increasing cameras in cruisers and on officers’ bodies.