With two tough critics at his side, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo unveiled significant policy changes in three areas: how officers can seek consent from a citizen to search his or her vehicle, how they confront suspects in moving vehicles, and how they deal with suspects who may be mentally disturbed, the Austin American-Statesman reports. The announcement came shortly before an officer shot at a suspect who police say was driving a stolen car at the officer, one of the scenarios affected by the changes.
Acevedo said the changes will better protect residents' civil rights and reduce the likelihood of deadly force being used by officers. They were backed by Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder and Texas Civil Rights Project director Jim Harrington, both prominent critics of the Police Department, particularly in the areas of how force is used against minorities. “From a civil rights standpoint, we have taken steps to ensure that everything we can possibly do is done to ensure the people we serve … feel they're being respected by the Austin Police Department,” Acevedo said. Officers now are required to notify supervisors when they want to ask a citizen for consent to search their vehicle.