Here is how to file a civil rights complaint in the Austin area

(Designed by Rachal Russell/Community Impact Newspaper)
(Designed by Rachal Russell/Community Impact Newspaper)

(Designed by Rachal Russell/Community Impact Newspaper)

Protests calling for police accountability and criminal justice reform continue for a fifth day in Austin.

Austin City Council will hold a special called meeting June 4 to discuss the tactics used by the Austin Police Department against protestors over the weekend, which included firing tear gas canisters to disperse crowds. Police also fired "less-lethal" impact rounds at protestors, leading to hospitalization of several protestors, according to APD Chief Brian Manley.

Residents interested in providing public comment at that meeting are encouraged to sign up to speak here. The special meeting begins at 3 p.m. on June 4.



In Austin, the office of police oversight was established in November 2018 in order to establish greater transparency and oversight of the department, according to city documents.


In its first annual report, the office reported 802 contacts were made between Dec. 1, 2018, and Dec. 1, 2019, which may or may not have resulted in formal complaints against the APD or individual officers. According to the office, of those 802 contacts, 10 cases were identified as potential policy violations.

Citizens who feel they need to file a civil rights case against law enforcement have several avenues to make a complaint. Here are directions on how to file civil rights complaints with local and state government agencies.

AUSTIN

Residents can file complaints against law-enforcement officers within APD through the city’s website, over the phone, by mail or in person.

The form to file a complaint on the office’s website can be found here.

To call in a complaint or to thank an Austin police officer, the public should call 512-972-2676. Complaints can be mailed to P.O. Box 1088, Austin, TX 78767. In-person complaints can be filed at the city of Austin Office of Police Oversight, located at 1520 Rutherford Lane, Bldg. 1, Austin.

TRAVIS COUNTY

In 2017, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office formed its own civil rights division, which is divided into the civil rights unit and the conviction integrity unit, according to the county.

County records indicate eight pending officer-involved shooting investigations in Travis County, including the April 24 shooting of Michael Ramos, an unarmed black man who was killed after being shot three times with a rifle by an Austin police officer.

However, the Travis County Civil Rights Division does not investigate administrative or civil cases from allegations of public servant misconduct or use of force, according to the county’s website. The civil rights division recommends civilians contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas in order to obtain legal representation to help with civil rights complaints.

The Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas provides legal assistance at reduced cost. According to the group’s website, clients are charged $20 for up to 30 minutes on the first consultation with a lawyer through its service.

The public can additionally file a complaint with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs division.

Complaints must be filed in person at the internal affairs unit office, located at 5555 Airport Blvd., Austin, between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Monday through Friday. Complaint forms in English and Spanish can be downloaded off the sheriff’s office website, found here.

The internal affairs unit states complaint investigations generally take 60 days to complete and for the department’s board of disciplinary review to determine any supplemental discipline.

WILLIAMSON COUNTY

The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office Professional Standards division handles complaints against county law enforcement personnel.

Complaints can be filed through the sheriff’s office’s “Quality Assurance Report Form,” which can be found online here. These reports must be filed in person at the sheriff’s office, located at 508 S. Rock St., Georgetown.

The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office also states civilians can contact the department with complaints over the phone by calling 512-943-1360.

STATE OF TEXAS

According to state numbers, the Texas Department of Public Safety received 1,148 complaints in 2018. Those complaints resulted in 256 investigations by the office of the inspector general, which oversees policy and law violations by the state’s law-enforcement department.

Civilians can file complaints against Department of Public Safety personnel by submitting a complaint form to the office of the inspector general through mail, fax or email. More information can be found on the DPS website, located here.

Complaints should be mailed to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Office of Inspector General, 13706 Research Blvd., Ste. 100, Austin. Complaints can be faxed to 512-424-5769 or emailed to InspectorGeneral@dps.texas.gov.

While submitting a complaint, the public should write, in a narrative form, a concise statement of the nature of the complaint with all relevant facts, including the name of the DPS employee, if it is known, or any information that will help the office identify the law enforcement official. Civilians submitting complaints additionally need to leave contact information, including an address and phone number, for investigators.
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.


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