The Austin Police continue to bring violence to our streets; politicians and prosecutors need to stop sitting on the sidelines
“The protection of life is the primary core value and guiding principle of the Austin Police
Department.” –Austin Police 2015 Policy Manual
On Monday, February 8, 2016, Austin Police officer Geoffrey Freeman shot and killed 17-year old David Joseph. According to Asst. Chief Brian Manley, young Mr. Joseph was naked, running toward the officer, and refusing to obey the officer’s orders, causing Officer Freeman to shoot him, in spite of the fact that APD officers are usually issued Tasers, pepper-spray, and batons, and given training in hand-to-hand combat as part of their academy training.
We, in the Peaceful Streets Project remember the outcry after the 2013 APD shooting of Larry Jackson Jr., “Don’t run from the police, and you won’t get shot.” Apparently, running toward the police isn’t much better, or for that matter, and if the death of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo. is any indication, neither is kneeling down with your hands in the air.
As the name, “Peaceful Streets” would imply, we seek peaceful solutions to the problem of APD violence and brutality, but it seems to be of no avail. Several of us have trusted in the system, and spoken for our allotted three minutes to the Austin City Council, the Public Safety Commission, and the Citizens’ Review Panel, only to be ignored by the members of all three panels. Our members marched and protested in a Rally Against Police Brutality, only to be tackled, tased, pepper-sprayed, threatened with shotguns, and arrested by the Austin Police.
Needless to say, there will be protests and demonstrations over the coming days. The momentum is building, as every new APD shooting brings even more activists to the cause, and as the families of those killed in the past link up with the newest victims, to seek the justice that they have yet to find in our flawed court system. Knowing APD’s history of violent reaction to any criticism of APD violence, we fear that, in spite of our mission, the streets of Austin will be anything but peaceful over the coming days. We will be there, not only providing video documentation of APD’s actions, but first aid and support for the protesters, bringing antacids, baby shampoo, and water for pepper-spray victims, and ice and bandages for taser and baton injuries.
We do, in fact, seek a peaceful resolution to this situation, to avoid a violent resolution. We ask that the Austin Mayor and City Council step in and protect the safety of the public from their Public Safety department. We ask that APD’s policy actually be implemented as true policy instead of simply being a “guideline,” and we ask that the Travis County District Attorney investigate and prosecute this case vigorously, through the Grand Jury hearing, criminal trial, and any appeals.We fear that if APD officers continue to kill with impunity, sooner or later, a family member is going to seek justice outside of the court system.
We’re still trying to “trust the system.” We ask that the “system” validate that trust, instead of abusing it.
It is Peaceful Streets Project’s hope that Acevedo’s reaction of disgust at the slander rhetoric of a slain officer’s character will provide him with some insight into the injustice of a practice so commonplace in the news media, police press conference rhetoric, and bigoted minded individuals, that much of mainstream white America shows a selective impairment in the identification and expression of similar disdain when the equivalent practice is applied to victims of police abuse—particularly when those victims are black men and boys. Indeed, it is our hope that Acevedo might examine his reaction to this injustice and note that others, when faced with a parallel situation, might dare to feel the same way. Indeed, it is conceivable that just like him, others may likewise conclude, “This is how the mind of so-called Peace Officers work and why some members of our community don’t want officers inches from their face.”
The irony here is that Art Acevedo and his supporters are missing the point entirely, yet driving it home precisely: yes, it is offensive, hurtful, and callous to slander a slain victim irrespective of whatever preconceived notions or judgments a complete stranger has about his or her character. The disproportionate outcry when this happens to a slain officer relative to a slain black person is precisely why the specificity that black lives matter is important. The public already understands that officer’s lives matter—that is why these comments ignite such visceral anger. This reaction is all but absent from large segments of white America when the tables are turned, however, and a black person is slain at the hands of police. Indeed, this outrage and empathy gap betrays the ardent protests that “all lives matter.”
This was posted in response to the predictable outrage that resulted from us using the same rhetoric about a slain police officer that the police, their supporters, and the media use to dehumanize a person of color each time a cop kills one of them.