Editor's note: This story was updated to include additional context about Acevedo's selection and hiring.

Former Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo has been tapped to oversee the Austin Police Department in a newly created executive post, a move that immediately generated some pushback given his previous record leading the police force.

Days after news of Acevedo's planned return to Austin was announced, a group of five council members met with interim City Manager Jesús Garza to share "serious concerns" about the appointment.

"While we agree with [interim City Manager] Garza’s emphasis on the need to improve police recruitment, implement academy reforms, and increase staffing, we do not have confidence that the proposed hire will advance our shared goals," council member Alison Alter wrote on city officials' message board. "The interim city manager has heard all of the concerns voiced and will meet with his team on next steps in the coming days."

The overview

Acevedo spent nearly a decade as Austin's police chief before departing in 2016. He's now set to serve as an interim assistant city manager over the APD, Garza announced Jan. 19.

The city's current leadership structure already has an assistant manager in charge of public safety departments including police, a role that's now held by former Assistant Chief Bruce Mills. However, Garza said it was "essential" to now add a new position tied to the APD while Mills continues managing other services.

Garza pointed to ongoing police staffing and recruitment challenges, cadet training reforms, debates over officer pay and a potential contract with the Austin Police Association, and other aspects of departmental operations as issues that Acevedo could help manage.

"I sincerely believe that APD deserves to have this focused level of support, and I am optimistic with these additional resources to help bolster our APD that we will continue to see success and movement on addressing any challenges," he said in a memo about policing initiatives.

Garza, the unelected interim city manager appointed by City Council, has hiring power over city staff, including his management team. A city spokesperson said Acevedo is a "nationally recognized expert in law enforcement," and cited his decades-long policing career and previous experience with the APD as factors that led to the hiring.

"As the chief executive officer of the city, it is the city manager’s privilege and responsibility to hire his executive team," the spokesperson said. "APD faces some of the most pressing departmental concerns in the organization, particularly in the area of staffing and training. This was a strategic decision to have a city management-level resource dedicated solely to APD."

Acevedo is set to begin his new job by the end of January, a city spokesperson said, and will earn a $271,000 salary.

After leaving the city to helm the Houston Police Department in 2016, Acevedo left Texas to join Miami's police force in 2021 and was most recently acting as police chief in Aurora, Colorado. His final day with the Aurora Police Department was Jan. 22.

What they're saying

News of Acevedo's return to Austin was met with mixed responses from local elected officials, with some supporting the move and others sharing skepticism and opposition.

Mayor Kirk Watson said he backs additional resources for the APD as outlined by Garza, including Acevedo's arrival.

“I favor additional support for our police officers and the Austin Police Department. I’m hopeful he’ll be able to provide needed support for the department and help us to strengthen the relationship between City Hall and APD as well as with the community," he said in a statement.

Council member Mackenzie Kelly said she believes the hiring decision represents proactive support for the APD at a "critical time."

"I am optimistic that Art Acevedo, as interim assistant city manager, will bring additional experience, knowledge and support to the department," she said in a statement. "I've known Acevedo personally for over a decade, and today, I spoke with him regarding his new role and expectations. I look forward to continuing our professional working relationship in his new role."

Much of the commentary about the hiring centered on concern or disappointment in the selection of Acevedo to work with the APD.

Responding to news of the appointment, council member Natasha Harper-Madison issued a statement saying only "No."

Council member Paige Ellis criticized Acevedo's track record in Austin and Garza's hiring choice.

“I am shocked by this decision, as Acevedo oversaw a department that caused rape kits to go untested for years and entrapped protestors, among other issues. I told Jesús Garza this is a bad call, and I guarantee that if it had come before council it would have a different outcome," she said in a statement.

Council members Vanessa Fuentes and José Velásquez both stated their surprise at the appointment.

"I’ve spent the afternoon in conversation with colleagues & constituents, & I share my community’s concerns. Austin deserves the highest level of integrity & service from its City leaders & we have a duty to continue to pursue that standard," Velásquez said in a social media post.

Council member Chito Vela also expressed resistance to the idea of bringing Acevedo back.

“I cannot support the hiring of Art Acevedo. There are too many red flags from his previous tenures as police chief, both here and in the other cities he’s served," Vela said.

Council member Ryan Alter said he didn't believe the move lined up with local goals for the APD.

"I was very surprised by this news and share many of the concerns expressed throughout the community. I want to do everything I can to make our police department the best in the nation, and I am still trying to understand how this hire at this time does that," he said.

Put in perspective

Word of Garza's decision came days before Austin officials were scheduled to publicly apologize to sexual assault survivors for the APD's mishandling of hundreds of sex crimes cases over many years that occurred while Acevedo was last chief. That formal apology, taking place Jan. 23, is part of a $875,000 settlement agreement with victims that council approved in 2022.

Council member Alison Alter, a vocal advocate for sexual assault victims and related city reforms, called Acevedo's return a shock that has the potential to retraumatize many community members and chip away at recent progress and rebuilt trust related to victim services.

“It has taken years of work alongside survivors and advocates to address the failures of Art Acevedo’s leadership at APD—namely the shuttering of the DNA lab, intentional misuse of exceptional clearance, multiple survivor lawsuits, and the understaffing of victim services and the sex crimes unit," she said in a statement. "I have directly expressed my concerns to the interim city manager. I believe we have come too far thanks to the bravery of survivors to stop now. I am listening to those in our community who were harmed by Art Acevedo’s previous leadership, and I do not support this proposed hire."

U.S. Rep. Greg Casar, who served as an Austin City Council member during and after Acevedo's tenure, shared similar thoughts.

“I agree with [Alison Alter]. I was on City Council when the enormous rape kit backlog was uncovered publicly. It was a major APD leadership failure. Only because of the painful and relentless advocacy of survivors did things begin to change," he said in a social media post.

Council member Zo Qadri said he considers Acevedo's hiring "unacceptable" given his past work at the APD.

"My office has already received calls demanding assurances that problems like untested rape kits wont continue in his new role back in Austin, not just to assuage Council—but concerned Austinites," Qadri said on social media. “Progress will only be built on trust and transparency, and Austin deserves a commitment that those values will be prioritized in this new role.”

District Attorney José Garza also pointed out the APD's documented failures related to sex crimes that took place under Acevedo.

"Over five years ago, survivors of sexual assault were forced to sue Police Chief Art Acevedo because he failed to adequately investigate the crimes committed against them and countless other victims of sexual violence. On his watch, a backlog of untested rape kits grew, and a culture of disrespect for survivors of sexual assault festered. As a result, too many survivors were revictimized and traumatized by the system that was supposed to protect them," Garza said in a statement. "Art Acevedo’s return is a step backward for survivors of sexual assault. His appointment represents a stunning disregard for their pain and our community's values."