Why Are You Still Here Man(ley)?

Embattled Austin Police Chief Brian Manley.
A lone police officer makes the decision that a black man no longer has the right to occupy any space on earth if he disapproves of his behavior. We see it time and time again. Not following orders fast enough? Boom! You’re gone.

Not from freedom, but from life itself, never to see your family or friends again and never to pursue any goals or dreams. Daring to defend yourself when physically assaulted? Boom! You’re gone. Having the audacity to try to run from law enforcement? Boom! You’re gone.

One police officer has the right to make a black man disappear permanently, and enjoy rather widespread support from his comrades and leaders. However, one white police chief (in this case, APD Chief Brian Manley),  can sit through literally hours of citizen, after citizen, after citizen articulating an exhausting list of verifiable offenses to the community he was sworn to serve – but yet – he gets the pleasure of righteous indignation and the privilege to leave on his own terms.

Those calls for Manley to resign are echoed from the City Council Dais as a majority of Council – Greg CasarDelia GarzaJimmy FlanniganPio RenteriaPaige EllisLeslie Pool, and Alison Alter – have all said publicly and directly that APD needs new leadership.

Why does City Manager, Spencer Cronk, who reports to The Council, feel no pressure to respond to the legions of cries suggesting that they cannot breathe under Manley’s tone-deaf and brutal leadership? Why is there such tolerance for an administration where the “differences in opinion” have proven deadly for Austin’s black and brown community?

These are the questions lingering over the City of Austin, even as the police department defies its own policy related to releasing video footage of the killing of Mike Ramos. Social justice organizations, such as the Austin Justice Coalition, led by Chas Moore, agreed to an edited version of the footage only after it was understood that the edits would be reviewed and approved by the Office of Police Oversight.

Instead, the video was edited without oversight and the announcement was made that Farah Muscadin, Director of the Office of Police Oversight, would be shown the video after the fact.

In a June 20th press release, Moore stated, “It is with enormous frustration that the undersigned groups renew our demand — after weeks of protest and major changes unanimously passed by City Council — for new leadership at the top of Austin’s public safety department, and in particular our demand that you sideline Chief Brian Manley.”

The published statement went on to say, “… we ask that you release all dashcam video, bodycam video, and audio, including the 911 call audio to the public unedited OR that you stop this process in its tracks and restart in partnership with the Office of Police Oversight, with time to review all the material and participate substantively in the creation of any edited version of footage BEFORE it is released.”

The move for the reorganization of the Austin Police Department and the reprioritization of budgeted funds has experienced fits and starts. Four resolutions calling for drastic measures that improve officer accountability and divest funds from the local police budget came on the heels of a disappointing increase in police funding immediately after an hours-long outcry at City Hall.

Soon after the unanimous vote on the law enforcement reform resolutions, Manley appeared poised to move in the direction of the proposed reforms, but his message was muddled by his public vow to enforce state marijuana possession laws, even while local government authorities have decided that there is to be no prosecution of such cases. Given the well-documented racial disparity in marijuana possession cases, this was a hot button issue that only amplified the assertion that Manley is at the least, out of touch, if not personally hostile, to the progressive and reconciliatory agenda being promoted.

The Austin Justice Coalition has indicated that it is fair to assume that this latest tactic related to the release of the edited Ramos video was intentional. Moore stated, “We do not believe this video release violation around the Ramos case is an accident. The Mike Ramos shooting has been the highest-profile death at the hands of police since the shooting death of David Joseph in 2016.”

We all know that it does not take much to justify the removal of a black man from the face of the earth. The question before the city now is, what does it take to justify the removal of a police chief from a job countless members of the public have declared he is unfit to have?

Update: Since the publication of this article – APD chose to delay the release of the Ramos video citing a ‘critical misstep’ in the process.

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