Austin police Chief Joseph Chacon announced that he'll be retiring in early September, ending his 25-year career at the Austin Police Department and a more than two-year tenure as chief.

“Working at APD has been the privilege of my life,” Chacon said in a statement. “Being the chief of police is something that I never thought would have been possible, and it has been the pinnacle of my career.”

APD Chief of Staff Robin Henderson will begin serving as interim police chief after Chacon's departure while a search for a new permanent chief takes place.

The specifics

Chacon said he shared his retirement plans with Austin city and police officials Aug. 21 with a “heavy heart” following several months of consideration.

He said he'll remain with the city in an advisory role for the next few weeks to ensure a smooth leadership transition; his departure will be effective in the first week of September, when Henderson is set to take over.

“Chief Chacon led the Austin Police Department with integrity and a deep commitment to the people of the department as well as our community,” Mayor Kirk Watson said in a statement. “I appreciate his work to cultivate mutual respect and trust during a challenging time in which we're all trying to find the right balance in policing. We wish him a well-deserved and fulfilling retirement, and we are immensely grateful for his years of service.”

Chacon, the APD's 10th chief, leaves the department after 2 1/2 decades of service, including oversight of many aspects of police operations from recruitment to patrol and special operations. A city release said he is stepping away to focus on potential future opportunities as part of his “remarkable career.”

“Chief Chacon has certainly made an impressive mark on the city with his effort to move the police department in new directions,” interim City Manager Jesús Garza said in a statement. “We will miss his leadership and dedication but are confident that the team he leaves behind will be able to further the great efforts he started.”

Garza also thanked Chacon for sticking around for the transition period before Henderson takes over as interim chief, during which she will select the department's next leadership team.

“She is passionate about public service, being a servant leader and mentor, and making a positive impact within the department and the Austin community, which I know she will make evident during her service in this new role,” Garza said of Henderson.

The context

Chacon first became the APD's chief on an interim basis in spring 2021 following the retirement of former Chief Brian Manley. He was later selected to stay on a permanent basis following a nationwide search for a new chief, and City Council confirmed his appointment in September 2021.

The city's release credited Chacon for:
  • Overseeing the APD's implementation of a 10-day video release policy for critical incidents such as police shootings
  • Improving police sexual assault investigations and related community work
  • Providing ongoing training updates at the police cadet academy
  • Increasing the focus on racial equity and structural racism in policing
Chacon's time as chief has also been marked by:
  • An ongoing staffing shortfall of hundreds of police officers
  • The legal fallout and policy changes stemming from the APD's response to the May 2020 police brutality and racial justice protests downtown
  • Resistance to many recommended changes at the cadet academy
  • Continuing political divides over law enforcement oversight and relations with the police union
Quotes of note

“The Austin Police Association would like to take a moment to thank Chief Joe Chacon for his years of service to the citizens of Austin and El Paso, as well as for the time he spent on the Board of Directors for the APA. We wish you the best of luck in retirement,” the police association said in a statement. “We would also like to congratulate Chief Robin Henderson on her pending appointment as interim chief of police. We look forward to continuing our collaborative work to get our police department where it needs to be.”

“Congratulations to Chief Chacon on his retirement. I appreciate his 25 yrs of service with APD. He led our community with heart & I wish him well in his next chapter. I'm especially grateful for his leadership in implementing the 10-day release policy on critical incident video,” Council Member Vanessa Fuentes said in a statement. “A search for Police Chief will get underway in the future, but in the meantime, I look forward to supporting Interim Chief Robin Henderson & our police officers during this transition period.”

"Police chief may be the toughest job in Austin, but Chief Chacon has handled it with class and diplomacy. Best to him in the future. I’ve enjoyed working [with] his Chief of Staff, [Robin Henderson], and look forward to her as Interim Police Chief,” Council Member Chito Vela said in a statement. “It is critical Austin’s next chief continue our police reform efforts, especially wrt changing our police culture, improving morale, and embracing transparency/accountability.”

“My office is thankful for our work together and wishes Chief Chacon the best with the next chapter of his career. As he steps down, Chief of Staff Robin Henderson will assume the role of interim police chief at the August 31st council meeting, ensuring continuity of leadership as the department continues its commitment to serving and protecting the Austin community,” Council Member Mackenzie Kelly said in a statement. “My office looks forward to working with my council colleagues and city management in finding a permanent police chief and working closely with Chief Henderson to make Austin a safe place to live, work and raise a family.”