Updated (8:35 p.m. Saturday): Austin police chief Art Acevedo apologized for a comment he made during a press conference regarding the arrest of Amanda Jo Stephen, who was arrested Thursday after crossing the intersection of 24th and San Antonio streets.
In the press conference Friday, Acevedo said the public had overreacted to the incident.
"In other cities there's cops who are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas," Acevedo said.
Acevedo said his comments were the result of a strenuous week for the department.
"I attempted to place the arrest into context by bringing attention to the fact that law enforcement deals with many acts of serious misconduct," Acevedo said. "In hindsight I believe the comparison was a poor analogy, and for this I apologize."
Updated (6:45 p.m. Friday): At a press conference held Friday, APD police chief Art Acevedo addressed the recent arrest of 24-year-old Amanda Jo Stephen, who was taken into custody Thursday after crossing an intersection at a red light. Stephen was formally charged with “failure to identify” and “failure to obey a pedestrian control device” and was released from Travis County Central Booking Thursday evening.
Acevedo said the arrest occured in the midst of a West/North Campus traffic initiative which began Feb. 1. Acevedo said the initiative’s purpose is to reduce the number of traffic violations made by drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.
According to Acevedo, 28 pedestrians were stopped and seven citations were issued specifically for disregarding pedestrian control devices Thursday.
“Our goal is to change behavior, and not necessarily to write tickets or take people to jail,” Acevedo said. “This week, we’re actually focusing on pedestrian violations. The initiative will continue for some upcoming weeks, utilizing the resources of district representatives.”
According to Acevedo, there have been 96 deaths related to pedestrian-involved incidents and 1,757 pedestrians injured in traffic crashes in in the past five years.
“I’d rather have everybody angry at me and my officers, then to see a young person lose their life needlessly,” Acevedo said. “I’d rather be up here talking about this, than going to our 97th fatality involving a pedestrian or 1800th injury involving a pedestrian.”
When arresting Stephen, officers took the appropriate actions, Acevedo said.
“I don’t buy that you can’t hear an officer yelling at you to stop,” Acevedo said. “I’ll give the benefit of the doubt initially, but when the officer is right by you and can see the hat and he’s looking at your face, you should be able to know what’s going on.”
Acevedo said Stephen disregarded the officer’s lawful request for her to identify herself and verbally resisted the arrest.
“All that young lady had to do when she was asked for her information was to provide it by law, “ Acevedo said. “Instead of doing that, she decided to throw [herself] to the ground – officers didn’t sit her down – and she did the limp routine.”
According to Acevedo, Stephen was handcuffed after telling the officer not to touch her. Acevedo said the public outcry following the arrest did not faze him.
“Thank you lord that it’s a controversy in Austin, Texas that we actually have the audacity to touch somebody by the arm and tell them ‘oh my goodness, Austin Police, we’re trying to get your attention,’” Acevedo said. “Quite frankly, she wasn’t charged with resisting, and she was lucky I wasn’t the arresting officer because I wouldn’t have been quite as generous.”
Original Story (Thursday): City police officers arrested a woman around 10:45 a.m. Thursday for failing to provide identification after she was stopped near the intersection of 24th and San Antonio, outside Big Bite Pizza and Grill.
Advertising senior Chris Quintero, who witnessed the arrest, said Austin Police Department officers were working at the intersection when the woman jogged across the block.
“I was sitting at the Starbucks at 24th and San Antonio,” Quintero said. “Then I hear a cop shout at an innocent girl jogging through West Campus with her headphones on.”
When the woman did not stop, the officer grabbed her by the arm and quickly placed her in handcuffs, Quintero said.
“She repeatedly pleaded with them, saying that she was just exercising and to let her go,” Quintero said.
In footage of the incident that Quintero filmed, the woman can be seen attempting to get up from the ground and being kept down by police officers.
“I was doing nothing wrong,” the woman said from her position sitting on the sidewalk. “I was crossing the street.”
When police escorted the woman into the police car, she began shouting and eventually shrieking unintelligibly.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “I didn’t fucking do anything wrong. I just crossed the street.”
Quintero said two additional officers on bicycles arrived on the scene to assist with the arrest. In footage, the officers can be seen working together to secure the woman in the back of the police car. According to APD spokeswoman Lisa Cortinas, APD officers do not target jaywalking specifically, instead they focus on pedestrian and bike safety overall.
“District representatives were working pedestrian enforcement at 24th Street and Guadalupe,” Cortinas said. “[In this case], the call is titled failure to identify.”
APD spokeswoman Veneza Bremner said as far as she was aware, there was no concerted effort Thursday to ticket jaywalkers.
“I don’t think there’s any initiative going on out there, but [APD officers] can go write tickets whenever they see a problem out there,” Bremner said.
Bremner said officers occasionally patrol the area even when they have not been called to address a specific crime.
“I’m not sure how often they do it, but I do know that they’re out there every now and then doing that,” Bremner said. “Whenever the call load allows, they’re proactively out there.”