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Although Austin has remained a relatively safe city, there have been far too many shootings of African American men. What kind of changes would you institute at APD to reduce the number of officer-involved shootings and reduce the degree of mistrust that exists between the African American community and the police?

Natasha Harper-Madison

City Council, District 1

We need to have a police force which is representative and part of the community they serve. We need to require our police department to develop a clear strategy for more diverse police force that includes more women and people of color through outreach, recruitment, and changes to departmental practices. Additionally, we can’t have a police force which is part of the community and understands the nuances of the people they serve if they can’t afford to live in our community. At the end of the day, Austin’s affordability is a public safety issue too.

We need fair police union contracts. I believe we should pay our officers who protect and serve well and provide robust benefits – tired, stressed and underpaid officers lead to officers that make fatal mistakes – but I also believe we need to revise union contracts to remove barriers to effective misconduct investigations and civilian oversight.

Finally, we must address how our police force is trained. The current training regime for police officers fails to effectively teach them how to interact with our communities in a way that protects and preserves life. Police recruits spend significantly more time learning how to shoot firearms than learning how to de-escalate situations. We need an improved, intensive training program to help police officers learn the behaviors and skills to interact appropriately with communities, and the tools necessary to address mental health calls.