AUSTIN: Police Union Uses Identity Politics to Pressure Chief, Rehabilitate APD Image

Photo: Michael Crumrine of the Lesbian and Gay Peace Officers Association speaks at an Austin Police Association press conference.

By Sandra Harris

On November 25, the Austin Police Association (APA) held a press conference condemning Austin Police Department (APD) Chief Brian Manley’s handling of allegations that former Assistant Chief Justin Newsom had been using racist language for decades.

Newsom was relieved on October 30 shortly after a complaint from the city’s Office of Police Oversight accused him of using racial slurs against Black people, including an Austin city councilmember, a former assistant police chief, two police officers, and former US President Barack Obama. He received a $137,000 payout in unused sick time.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley (left) and former Assistant Chief Justin Newsom (right)

Manley had become aware of the original email that led to the investigation into Newsom as early as October 7, and it was his sluggishness that APA and other police unions took aim at during the press conference.

The Texas Peace Officers Association, which represents black police officers, the Lesbian and Gay Peace Officers Association, and the Austin Police Women’s Association, joined the APA in calling for more diversity in APD’s leadership.

Chandra Ervin with the Texas Peace Officers Association pointed out that no one on APD’s leadership team was black and also claimed that Newsom’s racist comments and Manley’s inaction “destroyed the mutual trust” built between officers and “Austin’s diverse community.”

Michael Crumrine of the Lesbian and Gay Peace Officers Association also spoke against APD leadership regarding their misgendering of a transgender woman who was murdered in 2016.

“You have told us that the queer community matters,” Crumrine said, “but it has been 4 years since the murder of Monica Loera, and you and the Department misgendered her.”

Crumrine also said that APD leadership had not prioritized new policies or procedures to be more respectful to transgender people. He also borrowed Ervin’s point, stating the “rank and file” of the department should be trusted over APD leadership, and that they would “heal the wound that Newsom created on Austin’s diverse community that…Chief Manley allowed to fester and grow.”

These police organizations are intentionally framing racism, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia as issues that only occur among the primarily white, male, heterosexual, APD leadership and that a more diverse police force would be able to counter these forms of discrimination

From the head chief to the lowest-ranking officer, police departments serve the function of enforcing the law and order of the ruling class. This is why police act like friendly neighbors in the rich parts of Austin even as they terrorize the working-class areas.

The ultimate goal of this campaign is to rehabilitate the image of an institution righteously hated by the masses for the murder of innocent Black people and the continual harassment of of working class Black and Chicano communities.

Part of what ensures their success in this mission is the ability of police to perpetuate the lie that they serve the entire community instead of just the wealthy minority. The police groups that are protesting Newsom and Manley are serving the long-term sustainability of the department, encouraging trust in an institution that functions to oppress the majority of Austin.