AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin Police Department (APD) said its newest cadet class could be the most diverse in the department's history following a concentrated effort to make sure the force reflects the city's population.
According to the department, 38% of applicants for the 145th cadet class were Hispanic, 36% were white, 18% were Black and 4% were Asian/Pacific Islander. The latest figures indicate that Black and Hispanic applicants in the pool exceed the proportions that live in Austin as reported in the 2020 census.
The previous cadet class, the 144th Academy class, was the most diverse cadet class at the time, per the department. The current applicant pool is even more diverse, with Black representation 24% greater than last year, Hispanic 10% greater and Asian/Pacific Islander 50% greater.
“The 144th academy class was the most diverse class we have ever had in our history, and I'm pleased to announce that the 145th is on track to be even more diverse,” said APD Chief Joseph Chacon. “With almost a thousand applicants for the 145th, we would hope to field a class of between 60 and 80 cadets.”
The new cadet class will also incorporate curriculum changes made according to recommendation by independent consultants with Kroll and Associates, the release said. The consultant monitored the department's "reimagined cadet class" with the 144th class and released a report indicating that the department was "setting the right tone" overall.
An updated report last week indicated the department had competed 27 of Kroll's short and long-term recommendations. Six more were in progress and another was under consideration.
The reports and subsequent changes are part of the city's effort to create a new, reimagined police academy to address concerns about training techniques and learning objectives, as well as addressing the city's need to maintain adequate staffing.
Completed reforms include:
- Creating of an internal curriculum review committee aimed at incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion into all aspects of training and ensuring training emphasizes the ethical responsibilities of policing and a sensitivity to community concerns.
- Adopting a defensive tactics program early in the academy that teaches cadets proper defensive tactics before they are tested in aggressive hands-on scenarios.
- Proactively reaching out to community leaders who can present community perspectives and concerns about public safety as part of academy training and community engagement programming.
- Requiring effective de-escalation training as part of mandatory in-service "refresher" training every two years.
- Developing an intentional strategy to further enhance the long-term diversity of academy staff, including at the instructor level.
The 144th class was the first to implement recommended changes and was the first class to include anti-racism training.
“I’m very proud of the work done by our academy staff to get us to this point,” said Chief Chacon. “It was a very heavy lift because we had been doing things the same way for so long, and we’re asking them to do things differently and, in many cases, to do them much better.”
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