Austin Police Chief Condemns Violence in Arrest of Black School Teacher for Speeding
Austin Police chief Art Acevedo spoke Thursday at a news conference after videos surfaced of a black woman being thrown to the ground by an officer during a pull-over for speeding.
Acevedo scheduled the news conference on short notice after he was notified of the videos by a call from the district attorney on Tuesday, July 19.
He first offered an apology to Breaion King, the victimized woman.
“I’m sorry that on the day that you were stopped for going 15 miles per hour,” Acevedo said. “You were approached in a manner and treated in a manner that is not consistent with the expectations of this police chief, of most of the officers of this police department, and most importantly I think of all of us as human beings.”
King, an elementary school teacher, was pulled over by two officers more than a year ago on June 15, 2015 for driving 15 miles over the speed limit. Video footage, first published by the Austin American-Statesman, shows her getting out of the car and an officer rushing over to inform her that she is being pulled over. He asks for her license and then asks her to get her feet inside the car so he can close the door.
When King doesn’t comply immediately, the officer, who has been identified as Officer Bryan Richter, threw King to the ground and the situation escalated. Richter threw King to the ground a second time as he attempted to handcuff her while King is heard calling, “Why are you doing this to me?” many times.
When asked by a reporter whether civilians should always comply first with officers before filing complaints, Acevedo replied that while compliance is important, the way Richter acted was ultimately not in line with the gravity of the situation.
“Am I treating someone because they’re speeding to lunch like they just robbed the bank? Is that the way I want my loved one treated when they’re in a hurry?”
Richter wrote in the report of the incident that King was “uncooperative” and feared that things would escalate had he returned to the police car to write her ticket.
The second video takes place in the police car, where King and the second officer—Officer Patrick Spradlin, have a fairly calm conversation. However the comments the officer made are what some find alarming.
King asked the officer why people fear blacks.
“I can give you a really good—a really good idea why it might be that way. Violent Tendencies,” Spradlin said.
“I’m not saying anything, I’m not saying it’s true—I’m not saying that I can prove it or nothing. But 99 percent of the time, when you hear about stuff like that, it is the black community that’s being violent,” Spradlin says. “That’s why a lot of the white people are afraid, and I don’t blame them.” He adds that some black people do have very intimidating appearances.
When asked whether or not he found the statements by Spradlin racist, Acevedo replied, “Yes. That mindset—I cannot denounce what he had to say any stronger. It was very disturbing to me.”
Acevedo, who is Latino, adds that a lot of work needs to be done to ensure equality among all races.
“For those that think life is perfect for people of color, I want you to listen to that conversation and tell me we don’t have social issues in this nation,” said Acevedo. “Issues of bias. Issues of racism. Issues of people being looked at different because of their color.”
In respect to future measures that will be taken, he mentioned training for officers to uncover implicit bias and enforce fair policing.
Acevedo also concedes that it is a problem concerning the length of time it took him to hear of the issue, which warrants an additional look at internal processes within the department.
“There’s a problem that this was not kicked up to our level back in ’15,” he said.
Both Spradlin and Richter have been relieved of law enforcement duties. Administrative reviews are underway to evaluate past conduct of the two officers, while a separate criminal investigation is being conducted to determine whether charges are appropriate.