Wayne Vincent

Disabled law enforcement officers throughout the state may soon have more educational options available to them if a bill filed for the 2013 state legislative session passes.

Earlier this month, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, filed a bill that would amend the state’s educational code to mandate a currently optional tuition and fee exemption for disabled law enforcement officers to take courses at public institutions of higher education.

Eligible officers must have resided in the state 12 months prior to the beginning of the semester or session, be permanently disabled from an injury suffered during work as a law enforcement officer in Texas or one of its political subdivisions and be unable to continue employment as a law enforcement officer because of the disability.

UT spokesperson Gary Susswein said UT currently offers the exemption, but no one has taken advantage of it in the last five years.

Wayne Vincent is the president of the Austin Police Association, which advocates for the rights of Austin police officers and operates a political action committee. He said the bill provides increased options for disabled law enforcement officers who often have a difficult time supporting themselves and their families after an injury at work.

“We should do anything we can do to help our disabled officers find gainful employment,” Vincent said. “I think we owe it to them.”

Vincent said benefits for public employees are often a big topic within the state Legislature, and that it is hard to say whether or not the bill will pass.

Printed on Friday, December 7, 2012 as: Bill provides education options for disabled cops

City council members debated potential cuts to the Austin Police Department on Monday during the first reading and review of the 2012 city budget.

Council members discussed and proposed amendments to individual line items on the budget throughout the day, and a second reading will take place Tuesday at City Hall. The original budget lifted $3 million from the police force by delaying cadet class schedules and reducing overtime for sworn personnel. Council members voted to conduct a study of police force utilization after much debate about additional cutbacks to APD proposed by council member Bill Spelman. While the original budget made room to hire 47 new police force members, Spelman proposed the number be decreased to 31.

“Essentially [the study] is going to look at what are our community’s goals in terms of public safety, how we are currently using our officers to meet those goals and what changes we should take to more effectively use the resources we have,” said Barksdale English, policy aide for Spelman.

The city currently maintains a ratio of two police officers per 1,000 Austin residents. English said the results of the study could establish the current ratio as sufficient or indicate a need for more or less police force members. City officials do not yet have a time line for when the study will take place, he said.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo debated the idea of cutting police officers during the budget reading, stating a decrease in officers would produce a negative outcome.

Austin Police Association president Wayne Vincent agreed.

Vincent said he feels APD currently operates at minimum capacity, and he believes making further reductions based on a “theoretical study” would be a great mistake.

“The more visible the police are, the less crime there is,” Vincent said. “It’s been proven time and again.”

Vincent said possible cuts to APD could also place strain on the UT Police Department.

UT Police Chief Robert Dahlstrom said both police departments work together as necessary, but cuts to APD police numbers may not directly affect the UT campus and surrounding areas.

“If they were cutting back on those officers assigned to this area then it could affect us,” Dahlstrom said. “It will certainly affect the city as a whole though. When you cut back on officers, some of that crime will have to be prioritized.”

Dahlstrom said lower crime activities, such as graffiti or minor thefts, may not be followed up on if police officers are taking care of higher priorities. Dahlstrom said he hopes, however, that more crime would not be encouraged because of the lack of attention to these areas or less visible police patrol.

Printed on September 13, 2011 as: City council discusses cuts to police forces, may see rise in crime

News Briefly

Leander police charged and arrested former Austin Police Officer Leonardo Quintana on Tuesday for misdemeanors, said Wayne Vincent, Austin Police Association president.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that Quintana, who is now in Williamson County Jail, faces two counts of assault, one count of criminal mischief and one count of trespassing in a confrontation with his former fiancee in October 2009.

The former officer became the center of controversy in May 2009, when he fatally shot 18-year-old Nathaniel Sanders II. Quintana received a 15-day suspension for his failure to activate his dashboard camera at the time of the incident. Quintana faced driving while intoxicated charges eight months later after he crashed his car in a Leander neighborhood. His blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit of .08 at the time.

APD Chief Art Acevedo fired Quintana after the DWI charges, but the former officer appealed. An arbitrator reinstated Quintana to the force on Oct. 21 on the grounds that no other officers with first-time DWI offenses had been indefinitely suspended. APD fired Quintana for the second time in five months on Oct. 27 for violating company policy following his assault allegations from his ex-fiancee.

Less than a week after being reinstated to the Austin Police Department, Officer Leonardo Quintana is facing new scrutiny from the department after allegations of assault from his former girlfriend. The charges could amount to his fourth offense while on the force, which could result in another suspension or termination from the department.

The Austin Police Department could not release any details of the allegations because the internal investigation is ongoing. Austin Police Association President Wayne Vincent said he does not know the case’s facts or the outcomes.

“We’re just going to have to sit back and see what this is all about,” Vincent said. “Let the timing speak for itself.”

In his first offense, in 2006, Quintana was charged with criminal trespass when he brushed past his girlfriend’s arm to get his cruise ticket in her home. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo initially gave him a 15-day suspension but reduced it to a written reprimand.

Quintana became the center of controversy after he fatally shot 18-year-old Nathaniel Sanders II in May 2009, when his dashboard camera was turned off. He received a 15-day suspension for failing to activate the camera. His third offense, a driving-while-intoxicated charge, led Acevedo to suspend him indefinitely and Quintana to appeal.

APD officials said Thursday that management will stick to their original decision that Quintana had too many lapses in judgment. Hours after his reinstatement, Quintana learned about the assault allegations.

A dismissal board will review the investigation Wednesday afternoon and make a decision on Quintana’s punishment, which could range from a suspension to termination.