The four finalists in the running for the city’s next police monitor all seek to administer one change if selected for office: more public outreach.
The city created the position, along with a citizen review panel, in 2002 after a recommendation from the Police Oversight Focus Group. Since its inception, the Office of the Police Monitor, which is independent from the Austin Police Department, has handled public complaints against police officers, supervised the department’s Internal Affairs unit, has overseen practices and suggested policy changes within APD.
Sixty-six people applied for the position and four moved on as finalists. The four finalists are: Cristina Beamud, executive director of Atlanta’s Citizen Review Board; Margo Frasier, senior associate of MGT of America; Ann del Llano, family law attorney and owner of Capitol City Solutions; and Renita Sanders, Austin assistant police monitor.
Sanders said some complainants reached the police monitor’s office through friends’ advice or the city’s information hotline.
“They didn’t know we were there,” she said. “Social media would probably help, but we have to share with them who we are.”
Frasier said she believes the police monitor’s office should be more user-friendly, including having more accessible hours and locations for the public.
“I’ve looked at some of the statistics,” she said. “One of my concerns is that there is a tremendous amount of people that contact the monitor’s office and don’t get past that.”
The office needs to be completely transparent, and the public should voice their concerns about police officers and APD’s policies, said Frasier.
“We need to go back and have meetings to see what appears to be working and what doesn’t, and see if there are any changes that need to take place to see if the system is unjust,” Frasier said.
The police monitor’s office has looked at individual complaints, but also policy issues, del Llano said.
“If I’m monitor, I’m going to look at more policy issues, like racial profiling and others,” she said. “The monitor’s office’s staff can look at best practices nationwide, bring them forward and later make recommendations to the chief.”
Former police monitor Cliff Brown held the office for nearly four years. Brown will resign this month and replace Judge Wilford Flowers as the judge of the 147th district court in Travis County.
City manager Marc Ott is expected to select someone for the position later this month.