A grand jury indicted 19 members of the Austin Police Department on Thursday for their actions during the 2020 protests after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis.
Acacia Coronado, Texas-based reporter for the Associated Press, spoke to the Texas Standard about what the officers were charged with, and the response by the Austin Police Department. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: What do we know about the 19 officers facing charges?
Acacia Coronado: So, until we actually have the charges filed and then processed through the system, we will not have their identities. That is as far as we know right now.
Is it clear what will happen to these officers? Once formal charges are filed will they remain on duty?
We are unclear as to what the actions of the Austin Police Department would be at the time the charges are filed. We do know that they have been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, but we are unclear of what actions might be taken by the police department.
So far, what has Austin’s Chief of Police said about this?
Yesterday, Joseph Chacon, the chief of Austin Police Department, gave a brief press conference in which he said that he respects the grand jury’s actions, but he is extremely disappointed. He has said that he was not aware of conduct that, given the circumstances, would rise to a criminal level but he is awaiting more information from the district attorney’s office.
Has the district attorney said anything publicly regarding the large number of indictments here?
We heard brief remarks from District Attorney Garza yesterday, just clarifying that more will be known within the next few days as the indictments come through and as the charges are actually filed. So far, they are not commenting on the number of charges that have been filed yet. He has just stated that we will know more within the coming days but he was backing the grand jury process — which is independent of the district attorney’s office.
Could you explain the response from the head of the Austin Police Association? You report that he called the move devastating for law enforcement in the city, but also seemed to suggest there’s politics here.
My colleague talked with the Austin Police Association president. So far, all that we really know is that this is a very large number of indictments and this is a very large-scale case compared to what we’ve seen in other areas of the country, especially during the 2020 protests. But I think that is as much as we know right now.
I understand, all of this has led to the department reevaluating how it uses these beanbag rounds, or less lethal munitions. What more do you know about that?
In the days following the protests, Brian Manley, the former chief of the Austin Police Department, vowed that APD would no longer use beanbag rounds in crowd control. That was after testimony from members of the public during Austin City Council meetings in which the impact that these backgrounds had had on some of the people who had attended the protests became clear. And we did see outcry from local doctors and local hospitals who had been treating some of the people who had been injured. So, APD has since vowed in their policy that they will not use them for crowd control means. These weapons were considered to be less lethal munitions at the time. Since then, they have said that they will not be used in situations like what we saw in the 2020 protests.