“At the Crossroad of American Policing” — Chief Art Acevedo

“We have got to raise our game, You are commanders. If you don’t like it, you can move on, or you can demote. I’m not going to hold that against anybody if it’s not for you, but we have got to step up… We are in the crossroad of American policing and the problem isn’t cops, it’s leadership!”Chief Acevedo to his command staff after two questionable uses of force by Austin, TX police officers.

images-4In a secretly-recorded tape, Chief Art Acevedo of Austin, TX calls his command staff on the carpet after two incidents of police use of police force occurred.

These are difficult times for police chiefs. On one hand, they need to be the leader of the department. On the other hand (and an equally important one) they must represent the community and their interests. When the interests of rank and file officers or those of the community are seen not to be addressed, problems follow.

The one thing I learned as a chief was to be aware of BOTH interest groups. BOTH matter. At the same time, most our nation’s police chief in larger cities report to the political head of the city — the mayor — who is also cognizant of these and many other interest groups.

I learned that changing police takes time; time that must be filled with passion AND patience. Hear what Chief Acevedo had to say to his top commanders. Was this the best approach? What else could he have done?

Tony Plohetski of the Austin American-Statesman wrote on October 20, 2016:

“After two of the most controversial police use-of-force encounters in his tenure, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo stood before an assembly of high-ranking officers tasked with carrying out his vision for the department, using raw and emotional language to express his frustration in a private meeting.

“In each instance — the shooting of an unarmed teen and the violent arrest of a teacher — Acevedo, one of the nation’s most tenured major city chiefs, had swiftly and publicly condemned the actions of officers, a decision that led some inside the department to question how much Acevedo supports his troops.

“In a profanity-laden tirade behind closed doors with his top brass, Acevedo questioned how anyone, much less one of his 18 commanders, could have disagreed with his assessment and desire to hold the officers responsible. He acknowledged the department had “taken a step back” and called upon them to push changes down to the rank-and-file — or to rethink their careers.

“’We have got to raise our game,’ Acevedo said in the August 10 meeting. ‘You are commanders. If you don’t like it, you can move on, or you can demote. I’m not going to hold that against anybody if it’s not for you, but we have got to step up.'”

One incident involved a traffic stop of an African-American schoolteacher, Breaion King, which resembled the aggressive arrest of Sandra Bland earlier this year by a Texas highway patrol officer and the fatal shooting of an emotionally distraught young African-American teen, David Joseph, who was running naked down a street.

Commenting on the public release of his comments that were secretly recorder by one of his commanders, Acevedo said, “This person that did this, did me a personal favor because I think it confirms to this community that I walk the talk whether the light’s on or the light’s turned off, whether it’s outside in public or behind closed doors.”

You can see the use of force videos and hear excerpts from the command staff meeting which were put together by the Austin American-Statesman HERE.





  1. One of your recent posts was about the role of a vision in transformation. Accountability is not a vision, it is a process that most people in organizations recognize as burearcratize for the people at the bottom get thrown under the bus when things go wrong. Accountability fixes the blame, not the problem.


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