- Marc Ott, City of Austin
- United States of America
CITY OF AUSTIN -- WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO HIDE?
"Tell us whether or not this officer used excessive force; thus far we have not gotten a direct answer on that issue." -- Nelson Linder, NAACP-Austin
"Though the KeyPoint report itself urges transparency and accountability when the police use deadly force, the City ironically wants to keep KeyPoint's conclusions secret." -- Fox 7 Austin
COMMUNITY PETITION to RELEASE THE INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION of the SANDERS SHOOTING
Whereas, Austin Police Department ("APD") Officer Leonardo Quintana shot Nathanial Sanders, Jr. to death on May 11, 2009; and
Whereas, on August 19, 2009, the Citizens Review Panel recommended a third party investigate the matter after careful review of the internal documents, witnessing the prejudicial documentation in this death. In response, the City of Austin ("the City") Manager Marc Ott hired KeyPoint Government Solutions ("KeyPoint") to conduct the investigation, saying he has "confidence" in the firm; that he trusts "its ability to complete a thorough review of the case" and We, the People, paid $50,000 for this report; and
Whereas, on Oct. 5, 2009, the City released a redacted version of the report, obscuring nearly a quarter of it from the public; and
Whereas, KeyPoint found APD's investigation full of "serious omissions...biased toward the involved officers in a way which undermines the credibility of the investigation and the confidence which the Department and public have placed in them." They wrote that the public is "entitled to an investigation that is legitimately pursued, fair and free of bias" and there is "legitimate community concern that the police department may be biased against the complainant in an effort to protect ... officers;" and
Whereas, Officer Christopher Dunn, the lead APD internal affairs investigator, was found to have sent out an email instructing other investigators to dig into Sanders criminal history to deflect focus on the officers' actions, and was subsequently indefinitely suspended (fired); and
Whereas, the public still doesn't know whether the findings of the report show that Quintana's actions amounted to excessive or justified use of force. If it was excessive, then the public deserves to know why Officer Quintana only received 15 days suspension for failing to activate his in-car camera and deserves to know if disciplinary action was taken on only one policy violation to prevent release of key internal information in the case, as per the City's meet and confer contract with the Austin Police Association; and
Whereas KeyPoint wrote, "the community needs to be able to rest assured that someone is guarding the guardians with the ability to conduct internal investigations in a fair and unbiased way;" and
Whereas, We, the People, believe the City of Austin is likely erroneously hiding behind a Texas Attorney General (AG) opinion based on law that doesn't prevent release of a third party investigation's findings. The opinion states that the City must withhold the information within the internal affairs investigation (not the independent investigation) under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with Section 143.089(g) of the Texas Local Government Code, which says that "the public release of information authorized by this Section shall not contain or reveal evidentiary facts, or other substantive investigative information from the file, except to the extent that the information is no longer protected from public disclosure by law" (as when an officer is indefinitely suspended/fired); and
Whereas, the AG ruling likely does not substantiate withholding the findings (conclusion) of an independent investigation, and in fact, outright states that "Section 143.089(g) of the Texas Local Government Code is modified and superceded to the extent necessary to permit the public release of the following information only: ...(4) A final report from an independent investigator..." as the findings (conclusion) of such a report do not contain evidentiary facts; and
Whereas, NO JUDGE RULED as to whether the independent investigation should be disclosed or redacted, and the protective order upon the plaintiffs in the civil suit against the City was negotiated directly with the City such that plaintiffs would timely receive the unredacted version of the report; and
Whereas, "(i)t's very cynical for the City to spend $50,000 of taxpayer money for a report designed to increase transparency, then make the report's findings secret," as stated by Texas Civil Rights Project attorney Scott Medlock, who goes on to note, "KeyPoint's own conclusions make releasing the entire report essential." When you redact almost a quarter of the report, "you're inviting the public to speculate on what's in there. That's not the way to promote trust between the community and the police;" so
Therefore, We, the People, call on the CITY OF AUSTIN & City Manager Marc Ott to release the full, unredacted, independent report on the Sanders shooting of May 11, 2009, or at the very least, release the full, unredacted, conclusion of the report such that appropriate disciplinary action might be taken, if necessary; such that full disclosure of the report might be unquestionably justifiable.
The Release the Full Sanders Shooting Independent Investigation petition to Marc Ott, City of Austin was written by Debbie Russell and is in the category Civil Rights at GoPetition.