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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?

Bobby Levinski

City Council, District 8

Accountability starts with the City Council. As a council member, it’ll be my responsibility to form bridges and help restore trust within the community. We need the council to come together as a body (not as individual voices) to help steer the current conversations forward in a productive way. Ultimately, the quality of our police force and their compliance with adopted protocol and policies is dependent upon recruitment, training and retention. We need recruitment policies to ensure that the police force is reflective of the diversity of our community; requirements for continuing education and training on best practices for de-escalation, the use of non-lethal force and mental health response; and adequate incentives to retain the officers that are doing good work in our community. These are important provisions in preventing conflicts and promoting the “guardian-first” mentality recently promoted by the Police Chief.

With regard to trust, on a much broader level, we need to bring decision makers together to dedicate time and resources to address perpetual institutional biases within our criminal justice system. In 2010, I helped initiate and administer the Austin/Travis County Hate Crimes Taskforce, which was a multi-jurisdictional partnership that brought together elected officials, APD, the DA’s office and community organizations (like ADL) to address how our community prevents, manages and responds to incidents of hate within our community. By creating a safe space for folks to engage and innovate, we were able to make some important tweaks to build community trust and rethink what we thought we knew. I think the Hate Crimes Taskforce could be used a model to bring decision-makers and thought-leaders together to implement criminal justice system reforms.