University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name DOJ Investigation of Austin Police Department PN-TX-0006
Docket / Court docket unknown ( No Court )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Policing
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Case Summary
On May 31, 2007, the Austin NAACP and Texas Civil Rights Project filed a complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ) against the Austin Police Department (APD), opening this investigation. The NAACP alleged that the APD had violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and asked the federal ... read more >
On May 31, 2007, the Austin NAACP and Texas Civil Rights Project filed a complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ) against the Austin Police Department (APD), opening this investigation. The NAACP alleged that the APD had violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and asked the federal government to withhold nearly 3 million dollars in federal funds until the city eliminated its racial disparities.

The complaint alleged systemic police misconduct, citing that between 1999 and 2003 eleven people died from encounters with Austin police. Of these eleven individuals, only one was Caucasian, the rest were either Hispanic or African American. The DOJ informed officials it would undertake review in 2007.

In the resulting findings letter, dated December 23, 2008, the DOJ made 160 recommendations to improve the department's policies and procedures, most of which had been implemented by APD during the investigation period. These included: changes to the use-of-force policy; changes in the way officers report uses of force; and changes to the department's intake, classification, and the systemic handling of citizen complaints about officers, which the DOJ called "needlessly complex and fraught with opportunities to apply subjective judgment."

The recommendations additionally included: implementing a planned “early intervention system” to identify officers with a tendency to violate police policy and use of force; having the internal affairs division conduct investigations in “an objective and probing manner;” having review boards identify tactical or training issues that could be corrected to minimize uses of force against citizens; and allowing the Office of the Police Monitor to provide objective and public reports on the conduct of the internal affairs division.

On May 27, 2011, the DOJ officially ended its inquiry into the use-of-force practices of the APD, concluding that it found "no reasonable cause to believe that APD has engaged in a pattern or practice that violated the Constitution or laws of the United States.

Before the case closed, it made four more recommendations. First, the DOJ recommended that the APD "bring to fruition its planned, though not fully implemented" early intervention system, which is meant to identify officers who "demonstrate a tendency to violate APD." Second, Internal Affairs should be sure to "conduct investigations in an objective and probing manner," in keeping with the recommendations the DOJ made in 2008. Third, the department's use-of-force review process should "identify potential tactical or training issues" that could be "corrected to minimize uses of force." Finally, the DOJ recommended that the city's Office of the Police Monitor should provide "objective, public reports on the conduct of APD's internal affairs." While the police monitor's office has previously produced purely statistical reports – the number of complaints made to the office, for example – the DOJ recommended that APD "utilize OPM to produce timely reports not just on the number of internal affairs complaints ... but also to provide a qualitative analysis of the internal affairs system."

The matter is now closed.

Ginny Lee - 03/23/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Goals and Timekeeping
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Monitoring
Reporting
Required disclosure
Training
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Aggressive behavior
Assault/abuse by staff
Disparate Treatment
Excessive force
Language/ethnic/minority needs
Racial profiling
Restraints : physical
Search policies
National Origin/Ethnicity
Hispanic
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Race
Black
Special Case Type
Out-of-court
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 14141
Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.
Defendant(s) Austin Police Department
Plaintiff Description The Austin NAACP and Texas Civil Rights Project
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2007 - 2011
Filing Year 2007
Case Closing Year 2011
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Data examining the Department of Justice's civil rights investigations of local and state police departments
Marshall Project
Date: Jan. 17, 2017
By: Tom Meagher (Marshall Project)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  The Civil Rights Division’s Pattern and Practice Police Reform Work: 1994-Present
https://www.justice.gov/
Date: Jan. 4, 2017
By: U.S. Department of Justice
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  An Interactive Guide to the Civil Rights Division’s Police Reforms
https://www.justice.gov/
Date: Jan. 4, 2017
By: U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (U.S. Department of Justice)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  What Happens When Police Are Forced to Reform?
Date: Nov. 13, 2015
By: Kimbriell Kelly, Sarah Childress and Steven Rich (Frontline/Post)
Citation: Washington Post (Nov. 13, 2015)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Federal Enforcement of Police Reform
Date: 2014
By: Stephen Rushin (University of Illinois College of Law, University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program Faculty)
Citation: 82 Fordham Law Review 3189 (2014)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Re: Austin Police Department
PN-TX-0006-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 12/23/2008
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Findings Letter
PN-TX-0006-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 12/23/2008
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
42 U.S.C. & 14141 Investigation of the Austin Police Department
PN-TX-0006-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/27/2011
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brown Cutlar, Shanetta Y. (District of Columbia)
PN-TX-0006-0001 | PN-TX-0006-0002
Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)
PN-TX-0006-0003

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