City of Austin apologizes after tweet about police complaints

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by KVUE

khou.com

Posted on March 12, 2014 at 6:37 AM

AUSTIN, Texas -- People in town for South By Southwest are raving about Austin.

"Everything's huge here," said Michael Davies, who is visiting from England. "Very clean. It's a lovely place to be."

"It's very safe, and the cops have been super nice, too. Helpful, pointing in the right direction," said Beau Blanchard, who is visiting from Oakland, Calif. "Yeah, it's been great."

For those who may not feel the same, the city Communications and Public Information Office (CPIO) posted a tweet Monday around 7 p.m. on behalf of the Office of the Police Monitor (OPM) that said "Welcome #SXSWers! We know you're loving Austin but if you experience a problem with police, let us know. 512-974-9090 austinpolicemonitor.com"

The Office of the Police Monitor is a city agency separate from the police department that takes complaints about officers.

"Well it just seems like that you wouldn't do that unless there was an issue," said Blanchard.

"It wasn't like fully thought out, the way they sent it out," said Craig Carr, who lives in Austin. "They should have included a way to appreciate the police as well if they had good feedback."

Tuesday  morning, Police Chief Art Acevedo responded with a tweet of his own that said "@austintexas.gov If you want to commend a member of the @Austin_Police please drop me a line at art.acevedo@austintexas.gov. Enjoy ATX!"

Shortly after that, the city took its tweet down and posted an apology, saying, ".@ArtAcevedo @Austin_Police does an extraordinary job under extraordinary conditions @SXSW Apologies if OPM message gave wrong impression"

"Once you tweet, once it's out there and then when you pull it down, it's like, 'Oh, it didn't happen.' You can't. It's like, there's no take backs," said Blanchard.

Austin Police Association President Wayne Vincent agrees.

"That message is clear to 1,700 police officers that work in this city. It was a virtual slap in the face to every single one of them," said Vincent.

It was a slap, he added, because officers can't take off and miss spring break with their families during SXSW because the police department operates at 100 percent staffing for the festival.

The OPM released this statement about the tweet: 

A Tweet sent March 10 from the City of Austin twitter account, @austintexasgov, was intended to share information and resources from the Office of Police Monitor. While the information in the Tweet is accurate, the tone of the message was inappropriate and not released in good judgment.

The Tweet can be interpreted that there are problems with the Austin Police Department and its relationship with the public during SXSW. That is not our intent.

APD is one the best in the nation and serves the community daily -- including visitors to SXSW and other major events -- with professionalism and concern.

APD and the Office of Police Monitor work closely throughout the year to help ensure that residents and visitors are provided excellent law enforcement services. The goal is mutual respect between police officers and the public.

The Austin Police Department’s tireless efforts have made Austin one of the safest cities in the country, and we’re proud to be a partner.

According to the city, OPM and CPIO staff signed off on the tweet before it was posted. Vincent said  officers are reprimanded for saying inappropriate things all the time, and therefore believes someone with the city should be held accountable.

City staff told KVUE News they don't believe the incident rises to the level of a reprimand, but they will review practices with staff.

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