An Austin city official expressed more concern for officers being held accountable for brutality during 2020 protests than the people injured by heavy-handed police action. Austin Chronicle staff writer Austin Sanders tweeted Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk’s statement in response to the indictment of 19 police officers.
“We wish that there had been no injuries during the May 2020 protests, and the City is taking responsibility to compensate those who were injured due to actions of police officers,” Cronk said. “However, any indictments will heighten the anxiety of our officers and will impact the staffing shortages we are experiencing.”
He also expressed disappointment at the situation but said officers shouldn’t face criminal indictments while working under “very difficult circumstances.” Cronk’s statement suggests officer morale should come before accountability.
According to Austin’s NPR station, police shot protestors with an ammunition mixture containing “lead pellets and can kill or seriously injure at close range.” Another description of the “less-lethal” rounds described them as shotgun shells with lead or plastic pellets. Two men shot during the protest have been offered a $10 million settlement.
Not sure Anthony Evans and Justin Howell and their families agree with Cronk’s “disappointment.” In an interview several days after his injury, Evans described trying to leave a protest on May 31, 2020, with his hands up before he was shot in the face. Under the settlement offered, Evans would receive $2 million.
Howell will receive $8 million under the proposed settlement. News reports indicate he was a student at Texas State University at the time of his injury. The San Antonio Current reported Howell had brain damage and skull fractures as a result.
Protesting police doesn’t mean people should be exposed to violence. Settlements can only compensate people but so much when the same officers return to the streets without repercussions. The outlet noted that video during the protest showed officers continuing to fire on protesters who tried to carry Howell out of harm’s way. (Read the full article here).
The Austin Chronicle reported in April 2021 that payments for police settlements come from the city’s general fund. Strange how police morale is never impacted by large settlements paid with taxpayer dollars.
In Austin, the city council hires the city manager, not elected by voters. According to his biography, Cronk previously worked as the city coordinator for Minneapolis, a city that has been at the epicenter of demands for police accountability.
CBS Austin reported several groups drafted a letter, including the ACLU of Texas and the Justice Coalition, demanding Cronk apologize to the Travis County District Attorney and spend his efforts addressing “the many shortcomings in Austin’s oversight and accountability for police conduct.”
Austin Justice Coalition’s policy director Chris Harris told CBS Austin that Cronk’s comments were a part of a broader cultural issue.
“Comments yesterday from the city manager and police chief that they were disappointed in these indictments speaks to broader cultural issue, one where police believe and rightfully so, that they have impunity for misconduct because literally the people that are supposed to hold them accountable don’t think accountability is important,” Harris said. (Read the full article here).