Austin, TX -- Austin’s Freedom City Policies went into effect on November 1, 2018 to reduce discretionary arrests for citation-eligible offenses and racial disparities in arrests overall. Last Friday, August 9, 2019, the Austin Police Department (APD) issued its second round of quarterly reports covering the April - June timeframe as required by the Policies. In response, a coalition of community groups issued the following statement:
The Freedom City reports reveal an alarming and significant disregard for the requirements in the policies, including through widespread profiling of Black and Latinx communities and continued voluntary collaboration with ICE. At least one third of the arrests documented in the reports were in violation of the Freedom City Policies. The majority of those arrests were of Black and Latinx individuals. Racial disparities continue to exist in discretionary arrests across the board. The Black community accounted for 32% of arrests made for citation-eligible misdemeanor offenses, despite comprising less than 8% of the City’s population.
The reports also reveal multiple instances in which APD officers voluntarily contacted ICE, going above and beyond the requirements of SB 4. This included one instance in which APD contacted ICE to inquire about citizenship, despite the individual presenting a valid Texas ID.
The reports also raise serious concerns about the integrity of data provided by APD. For example, significant discrepancies exist between reported traffic-related arrests when compared against previously reported 2018 data. Traffic-related arrests are the primary entry point to the arrest-to-deportation pipeline for immigrant communities.
A working group of community members and advocates has met with APD on a monthly basis since September of 2018 and provided feedback on APD’s implementation of the policies. Despite concerns raised by the working group, APD has appeared unwilling or unable to fully comply with the policies.
Julieta Garibay, Co-Founder and Director of United We Dream Texas
“Although the data is showing that there has been a decrease of arrests; the fact is that the data shows that APD officers continue to racially profile people as it relates to arrests. We will continue to demand the elimination of unnecessary arrests that forever disrupt the lives of people of color and immigrants, and demand a stop to the feeding of our people to the prison to deportation pipeline. An unnecessary arrest can result in losing a job, not being able to provide for themselves and family, and for many, could even result in deportation.
Holly Kirby, Criminal Justice Programs Director at Grassroots Leadership
“One reason we fought to pass these Freedom City policies is that we must end the disproportionate targeting of Black folks by police in our community. While we are seeing slightly fewer arrests, discretionary arrests are still profoundly discriminatory. Do better.”
Anita Gupta, Staff Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center
“The Austin Police Department continues to needlessly contact ICE, thereby endangering families and putting them at risk of deportation and separation. APD has rejected our demands to establish clear guidelines regarding voluntary communication with ICE. As a result, their internal policies incentivize racial profiling and contribute to Trump’s racist deportation machine.”
Mayra Huerta, Interim Organizing Director at the Workers Defense Project
“Even after our communities have fought to end the arrest-to-deportation pipeline by passing policies like Freedom City, these reports shows that immigrants and communities of color still struggle against a criminal justice system designed to keep them down. Our fight for justice won’t be in vain, which is we will keep fighting to make sure that APD fully complies with the policies and keeps their promise to communities in Austin.”
Our organizations and the communities we serve demand the elimination of unnecessary arrests for citation-eligible offenses and voluntary collaboration with ICE. These arrests and activity continue to disproportionately affect our city’s black and brown communities. We call on APD to provide accurate data and fully comply with the Freedom City Policies.
Reports published by the Austin Police Department as required by the Freedom City Policies are available online here: http://www.austintexas.gov/page/council-resolution-reporting-requirements-20180614-73-74