Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice gave the Austin Police Department a clean bill of health after a three-year investigation into the department’s use of force policy.
The investigation came after The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Austin and the Texas Civil Rights Project filed a complaint with the Justice Department in 2004 over the differential treatment of minorities in the community, claiming that APD was violating constitutional rights. The NAACP filed a similar complaint one year later.
While APD checked out with the federal government, the Justice Department did provide the police force with several recommendations. One recommendation urges the Office of the Police Monitor to provide “objective, public reports on the conduct of APD’s internal affairs,” and states the department should “utilize” the police monitor position to supervise its internal systems.
Just 24 hours after the Department of Justice’s report, APD Officer Nathan Wagner was put on administrative leave after fatally shooting 20-year-old Byron Carter Jr. According to police, Wagner and his partner spotted Carter and a 16-year-old male suspect casing cars in East Austin.
Carter was shot when he and the teenage suspect attempted to flee police in a vehicle.
Austin Police Monitor Margo Frasier responded to this scene after 11:00 p.m. Monday night.
"We have a role to oversee and monitor investigations and make sure they are unbiased and fair to everyone involved," she said.
Frasier could not comment directly on Monday’s shooting, but she did say she will be hands on during the incident’s investigation to ensure the Austin Police Department paints an accurate picture for the public to see.
"My job is not to do the investigation for them but to make sure it looks like everything is being done above board," Frasier said.
The Justice Department’s recommendation regarding the Office of the Police Monitor was made in hopes that APD will constructively sift though policies that address use of force. Frasier said that it’s a procedure already in place in her office, a process the entire community can learn from.
"I don't want to be the police chief, that's not my role,” she said. “But I think my role is to sit back later on and say, ‘Ok, if we could do things better and have a result that didn’t end up in a loss of life or injury, what are some things we can look at and learn from this instance.’”
Frasier said it could be months before an internal investigation into the shooting is completed.