Austin police name interim chief, start national search

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A nationwide search is underway for a new police chief in Texas’ capitol city following the retirement of Austin’s former top police officer amid a reckoning over racial injustice and use of force in law enforcement.

Austin Police Department Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon has been appointed as Interim Police Chief while a national search takes place, Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk announced Monday. Former Austin Police Chief Brian Manley announced his retirement in February.

Cronk said the search will be transparent, inclusive and take place in three phases, the first of which begins immediately and includes requests for community input to develop a candidate profile. National executive search firm Ralph Andersen & Associates will assist in the search. Cronk said he hopes a new chief will be appointed by August.

“In recent months, experiences at both the state and national level have heightened public conversations concerning law enforcement and public safety among communities of color as well as those experiencing mental illness,” Cronk said. “Change can be difficult and uncomfortable but it also brings opportunity.”

Chacon, who was not present at the news conference, told the AP in a statement that he was “honored” by the new appointment.

“I look forward to leading APD during this critical transition period and will fully support the nationwide search for our next permanent police chief,” Chacon said.

Calls for Manley to resign had been persistent since the police shot and killed Michael Ramos in April as he drove away from officers. They were responding to a 911 call from someone who said Ramos was holding a woman at gunpoint and that the two had been doing drugs in a car parked at an Austin apartment complex. Austin Police later said Ramos was not armed.

Austin officers also caused serious injuries during protests over the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody last May.

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