City Manager Spencer Cronk said that he would “immediately start to conduct a national search for our next chief” and that he would appoint an interim chief by the start of March.
Manley clarified that, after 30 years on the Austin police force, he was “not worn down” from the job but that his heart was moving beyond the role. Manley said he is ready to take on the “next phase of life,” whether it is in the private or public sector.
“I know in my heart that it is time for me to pursue that next opportunity,” Manley said. “And I don't feel that I can give my full attention to the duties of the chief of police as demanded if my heart is now looking for that next opportunity.”
Feb. 1 marked Manley’s 30th anniversary in the police department. Manley took over as interim police chief in 2017 after predecessor Art Acevedo left to take over Houston’s police department. As interim chief, Manley went on the to lead the investigation into the 2018 Austin serial bombings that left two people dead and several more injured.
Months after the police department successfully subdued the bomb threat, City Manager Spencer Cronk appointed Manley as chief. City Council later confirmed the appointment in a unanimous June 2018 vote.
However, Manley took over a department already under the microscope for, among other things, its failure to address a growing backlog of thousands of untested rape kits. The scrutiny would only intensify over the coming years.
In late 2019, City Council froze cadet classes after allegations that it encouraged a warrior, as opposed to guardian, mentality. An investigation into the use of racial and homophobic language by the department's top ranks was also ordered. In April, police officers shot and killed an unarmed Austin resident, Michael Ramos, in an event that spurred protests throughout the community.
Then, following the protests that ensued in Austin and across the nation against the death of George Floyd, the police department came under further community ire for excessive use of force against unarmed protesters, two of whom were critically injured by "less lethal" bean bag bullets. Calls from the community and local elected officials to fire Manley intensified, and Cronk's apparent unwillingness to make a change of chief drew questions from City Council members.
City Council responded during the August budget session by promising to "reimagine public safety" in Austin and immediately cut $21.5 million from the police budget and set aside another $129 million for potential further cuts.
The Greater Austin Crime Commission, which advocates for police interests in Austin, said Manley led the department with "character and integrity."
"As chief, Manley championed efforts to expand community policing and confronted the public safety challenges of a growing city," President Corby Jastrow said in a statement. "The Austin Police Department is a better organization because of his humble and effective leadership."
In a statement, Chas Moore, executive director of the civil justice advocacy group Austin Justice Coalition, said Manley’s resignation was “long overdue.”
“His tenure as chief of police was a reflection of a different time and place in regards to how communities across the nation view policing and public safety,” Moore said. “Today is a new day. We are demanding and expecting something much more—a transformed and wholly new approach to public safety.”