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  • New Chief For Austin, TX

    By Tony Plohetski


    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    Art Acevedo, a top California Highway Patrol official with a reputation as a crime fighter who helped Los Angeles neighborhoods and law officers work closer together, will become Austin's next police chief, City Manager Toby Futrell said late Wednesday.

    Acevedo, 42, will be the department's first minority chief and will take over an agency that has struggled in recent years to mend strained relations with some of Austin's black and Hispanic residents.

    Brian K. Diggs

    (enlarge photo)
    Art Acevedo
    Highway patrol official impressed city, community leaders.

    Ralph Barrera

    (enlarge photo)

    Art Acevedo, joking with Austin City Council Member Jennifer Kim during one of Monday's candidate forums at the Palmer Events Center, told community groups that he has studied police use of deadly force across the country.

    He will lead the department as the U.S. Department of Justice investigates whether police use excessive force against minorities and as officials continue responding to questions about a recent deadly police shooting in which an African American man was shot twice in the back by a white sergeant.

    It was unclear when Acevedo would take over the department from acting Police Chief Cathy Ellison, who was one of five finalists for the job.

    City officials have scheduled a news conference at noon today at City Hall to announce Acevedo's hiring.

    "I guarantee in the weeks and months to come, the community and leaders will know their chief," Acevedo said during recent community meetings in which residents met and talked with the finalists. "I have a very open-door policy."

    Acevedo emerged as a front-runner with El Paso Police Chief Richard Wiles this week during a three-day series of meetings, impressing city officials and community leaders alike with answers to questions about police discipline, how officers use force and how he would improve relations between the department and the community.

    He said he had studied the use of deadly force by police in incidents across the country, for example, and concluded that many of them involved officers using the wrong tactics.

    "They gave the suspects a way to engage them," Acevedo said.

    At the same time, he said, the public should realize "the streets are not a place to argue with cops."

    Community groups have said they liked that Acevedo was experienced in dealing with a large population and a strong union and that he spoke Spanish.

    Other finalists for the job were Roger Reinke, police chief in Marco Island, Fla., and a former Milwaukee assistant police chief; and Jimmie Dotson, a former Houston assistant chief and Chattanooga, Tenn., police chief.

    Futrell said Acevedo stood out among other finalists, particularly during a recent visit by Austin officials to Los Angeles, where he spent most of his career.

    She said that while city officials met with about a dozen people in the other candidates' hometowns, more than 60 showed up to endorse Acevedo, including Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton. Others in the crowd included a custodian who cleaned buildings where Acevedo worked, dispatchers, patrol officers and community leaders, she said.

    "It was surreal, overwhelming," Futrell said. "We heard very specific examples of how he has worked community issues, solved policing problems for small businesses and worked with youth issues in the community."

    In Austin, Futrell said Acevedo received support from groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Austin Police Association.

    "If you can find common ground between all these groups, that is what we've been looking for," she said.

    As an officer, Acevedo patrolled mostly in eastern Los Angeles County. He became a sergeant several years later and helped investigate officers accused of misconduct, including one who was fired for sexual misconduct as a result.

    As an assistant chief, he helped coordinate security for several large demonstrations, including anti-war protests at the 2003 Academy Awards, and led his agency's response to a series of freeway shootings in 2005 that resulted in the arrest of several suspects.

    Acevedo also in recent years publicly battled superiors about what he thought was unfair treatment of himself and others, some of which played out in the media and raised questions about whether he was playing politics.

    He complained in April 2005 to the California State Personnel Board, saying he had been retaliated against for exposing unfair practices regarding promotional exams for the rank of lieutenant in 2003. He said he was unfairly given the lowest score when he took a promotional exam for the chief rank. The personnel board ruled in his favor and ordered that the exam be given again, and Acevedo made the second-highest score out of 13 people.

    The previous year, Acevedo said he had been threatened by former highway patrol Commissioner Spike Helmick when he declared that he would apply to replace Helmick, who was retiring.

    A couple of months later, he and the highway patrol were sued by a female employee whom Acevedo had dated a decade earlier. She said Acevedo had taken nude photos of her and shown them to other officials. The suit was dismissed, except one allegation that Acevedo settled.

    Those who worked with him in Los Angeles said Wednesday night that he'll be missed.

    "You are so blessed to have him, and we mourn losing him," said Bishop Edward Turner, the director of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Clergy Council, a group of religious leaders who do community outreach with the help of local law enforcement. "He is the best there is."

    Turner credited Acevedo for easing tensions between Hispanics and blacks in the community by organizing conferences where the two ethnic groups could work out their differences.

    "He became an icon here because he brought people together," Turner said.

    Daniel Schulist, chairman of the East Los Angeles Community Youth Center, called Acevedo the best police officer he's ever met.

    "He's a very hardworking, articulate individual who gets things done when people need help," Schulist said. "I think he'll do a fantastic job in Austin."

    [email protected]; 445-3605

    Additional material from staff writer Patrick George.
    Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence!

    [George Washington (1732 - 1799)]

  • #2
    I personally know Ace and think he is a great all around guy and I am sure the officers in Austin will enjoy working for him.


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