“I hope through this process that we collectively find the ideal candidate —one who collaborates with our community, instills trust in the workforce, works to achieve results from established Council policy, creates a culture of improvement and accountability, and is willing and able to lead the department in ways that lead to equitable public safety outcomes for all,” Cronk said in a memo to City Council.
At a March 22 news conference, Cronk said he selected Chacon for the interim position for his balance of experience across departments as the city works to "reimagine public safety" through ongoing reforms. Chacon joined APD in 1998 and has served as director of the Austin Regional Intelligence Center, investigations bureau chief, headquarters bureau chief and central bureau chief.
“I didn’t ask [Chacon] to be a placeholder,” Cronk said. “I asked him to be an active participant who would not only take the work that our Reimagining Public Safety Team has been moving forward with, but lean into that and make sure we are acting on the recommendations and not losing any of the momentum that we have built thus far.”
The announcement follows a tumultuous year for the Austin Police Department. After police shot and killed an unarmed man, Michael Ramos, in April, community members engaged in protests against this and other incidents involving APD, spurred on by national protests against police violence in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the custody of Minneapolis Police. Several local civil justice advocacy groups, including the Austin Justice Coalition, called for the removal of Manley along with his chief of staff, Assistant Chief Troy Gay, and Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano, who oversees public safety.
In August, Austin City Council voted to remove around $150 million from APD’s budget, a reduction of 35% from the budget Cronk had initially proposed. Some of the leftover funds were reinvested in community programs, and some functions typically associated with police were shifted to other city departments. 2021 police cadet classes were included in the cuts, with training put on pause until significant changes to the department's training program are made.
According to Cronk, the search for a permanent chief will include opportunities for community input, beginning with a community survey this spring.
“My goal throughout is to ensure our residents are heard in who they want to see lead our police department,” Cronk said in the memo to council.
The search will extend nationwide, but Cronk did not rule out the possibility that an internal APD candidate would be selected, including Chacon and Gay. Executive search firm Ralph Andersen & Associates will lead the endeavor.
Austin residents wishing to weigh in on the search process can do so at www.speakupaustin.org/YourNextPoliceChief.