A new round of reviews into the Austin Police Department’s practices and past alleged misconduct will proceed over the coming months.

City Council unanimously voted July 28 for a $350,000 contract extension with Kroll Associates, the consulting firm that has served as an outside evaluator of APD for nearly two years. Kroll has completed several deep dives into Austin police culture ranging from its cadet academy to overall law enforcement work.

Kroll’s next analyses will focus on several general subject areas including: APD’s compliance with both state and federal discrimination and harassment laws; the past decade of lawsuits and related settlements stemming from alleged police misconduct; and patterns of systemic racism as well as the effects of APD culture on its female, LGBTQ and minority employees. Kroll's reporting will also include action plans for implementing recommended improvements.

Once underway, Kroll’s assessment will last about six months. The city said it expects to provide the firm with the materials needed to begin its reviews “as quickly as possible” after council’s July vote.

Including the next phase, Austin will have spent $2.03 million on Kroll’s consulting since late 2020. Funding has come from the management services department, the city's general fund and APD's budget.

Ongoing review

Reviews of APD culture, including Kroll’s, have been taking place for years. The current series of Kroll reports was in part sparked by complaints of the use of racist and homophobic language by APD leadership in 2019. In addition to a probe launched by city management, council also called for a “comprehensive, multipronged investigation and evaluation” of the police department and a halt to cadet training.

The city-initiated inquiry into those allegations did not verify the claims, but detailed a police department culture that supported a “fear of retaliation” among officers and a “quiet resistance” to investigation.

Various reports have also found evidence of disproportionate policing and the longtime mishandling of sexual assault investigations—leading the city to pay $875,000 to victims of sexual assault this year. A separate evaluation of that issue by the Police Executive Research Forum is ongoing and expected to wrap up later this summer.

A proposed fourth round of Kroll reviews in the future could center on APD officer communications including text messages, emails and social media posts. That work will be revisited after the new analyses are completed, according to Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano.

In addition to that planned work, Mayor Steve Adler also requested that the city support continued evaluation of APD's cadet academy if that program is expanded in the next fiscal year. He said he expects APD will request resources for more cadet training in the next year after classes restarted last spring.

"As we move on to these other classes, which we see that we need, we’re going to need to have in place some additional third-party review to make sure that we stay on track and that our staff have the support they need ... to make further changes as necessary to help us achieve the final goals that we talk about through this iterative process," Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter said.