The Austin Police Department’s blatant disregard for safety and human dignity was, once again, on display during an incident recorded on 6th Street in downtown Austin, Texas. Around 2:35 a.m. on Sunday, August 7th, 2016, the Peaceful Streets Project continued to document APD’s weekend ritual of clearing drunken, wayward pedestrians from the street using horse mounted officers. Peaceful Streets Project members have documented numerous instances of the Austin Police Mounted Patrol using their horses to “push” people out of the street, and even push them off of sidewalks. This has resulted in people being needlessly injured, trampled, and knocked to the ground. People who have attempted to pet the horses have been assaulted and charged with interference with a public service animal. People who have attempted to avoid being assaulted by the horse mounted cops have also been assaulted and charged.
In this particular instance, an apparently inebriated woman wanders across the mounted patrol’s path, and nearly makes it to the curb, when Austin Police Officer Michael Wade #6699 decides to kick her as he passes. The blatant disregard for the woman’s safety and dignity publicly showcased by Officer Wade is profoundly appalling. The woman was within inches of the curb and posed neither threat nor obstacle to the passing patrol. She is simply kicked like she was some stray dog (as if kicking a dog could have any desirable effect). She may or may not be a tourist, a coworker, a friend, or a family member, and yet, that should have absolutely no bearing on the reaction of a reasonable viewer. She is, above all, a human being. The utter contempt and disdain shown to a member of our community by Austin Police Officer Michael Wade is deplorable. That this is what passes for professional “policing” in the city of Austin, should outrage even the most cynical sensibilities. If this is how an officer treats a weekend reveler of the Austin club scene, then it should come as no surprise when an officer decides to skip the less-than-lethal options and shoot dead a naked, unarmed, teenager with neither restraint nor due process.
When Austin police officers are captured on bystander or dash-cam video abusing their authority, joking about rape, or generally blurring the line between law enforcer and law breaker, Police Chief “Art” Acevedo is quick to remind us not to judge his officers before we have all of the facts. He will speak to his officer’s impeccable record while reminding us of their past professionalism. Yet, Chief Acevedo has, at times, rushed to slander victims and trot out criminal records, as if it somehow justifies trampling civil rights when his officers run amok. Ignoring any possible deep-seated issues pertaining to professionalism, race, class, or misogyny, this video makes crystal clear that Officer Wade’s wanton actions are both demeaning and reprehensible. At no point in this video, does a reasonable viewer connote any “prior convictions” nor witness any “professionalism”. A human being was needlessly kicked with sheer contempt by a fellow member of our community; a public servant, no less.
The Peaceful Streets Project implores Austin’s local media and the public to contact the Austin Police Department, Office of Police Monitor, and Mayor Steven Adler to inquire as to whether they find this behavior appropriate. More importantly, ask our elected officials what they will do to hold this officer accountable and ensure this never again happens in our community. Do not settle for promises of “more training” and be sure to ask, “How much training do officers require to understand that this is just wrong?” If we refuse to demand any semblance of basic human decency, we can only be complicit in our silence. If these actions, by those sworn to protect and serve, in any way, reflect the mood or general attitude of the media, the public, or our leaders, then we should all be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. The people deserve answers, the people deserve better, and this young lady deserves an apology.