Let's start by quickly granting what was incorrect in my original post about getting stopped twice Friday night a week ago with my granddaughter on the way home from roller skating (an account which received, much to my surprise and without my assistance, an almost absurd amount of social media attention until eventually the Statesman picked it up). Throughout, with the chief's approbation, I declined comment.
Basically two things I wrote were flat-out wrong, both of which are detailed in an Update/Correction posted at the end of the original item on Friday. First, I recalled an officer pulling his taser out when in fact his hand hovered over his weapon but it remained holstered. After I finally got to see some of the video for myself, I posted a correction. I also posted another correction: I originally thought the deputy constable (the first officer who detained us) had called in the rest of the cavalry and assigned blame to her when I shouldn't. Turns out, she did the right thing and IMO it was APD who overreacted, an opinion which explains why the chief is mad.
What's still in dispute? Mostly red herrings. I never alleged police brutality nor misconduct. In fact, in the comment section and more than a few emails to reporters I insisted there was none. I did say in the post I was "roughly cuffed." And if the tape rolls long enough (I don't know what was released to the media) at some point I asked them to loosen the cuffs as they were cinched up tight enough to be painful - a small thing, perhaps, if it's not you, but a "lie"? To his credit, one of the officers loosened the cuffs shortly before I was released.
Acevedo also pretends in the Statesman article that his officers stopped us because I refused to identify myself to the deputy constable. In fact, the deputy constable's written report, which the chief let me read in his office but would not give me a copy of, she said she stopped us, asked Ty a few questions, seemingly did not think the situation required further investigation and had begun to return to the Millenium Center. It was then that APD was told a deputy constable was on the scene, and they had her patched through via dispatch. Moments before APD was about to roll up on us, the deputy constable told APD that she'd spoken to us, gave them the child's name, told them I was her grandfather, and began to run toward the scene. She never told APD I did not identify myself before I was handcuffed, so that fact-bite was irrelevant. (Judging from the one-sided account, Acevedo apparently did not release the constable's written report, nor the dispatch tape of her saying that to APD along with the materials he gave the Statesman Friday.)
What aspects of my original recitation were correct? Well, basically everything else. Despite Acevedo's inflammatory attack on my credibility, not much is actually in dispute. Someone called 911 when I left the Millennium Center with my granddaughter. I was stopped not once but twice. I did, in fact, allow the Constable to question Ty and she left understanding that I was Ty's grandpa. We were then stopped by several APD officers. I counted six cars initially, with three more arriving soon thereafter and a supervisor arriving later. Acevedo didn't dispute any of that. I was handcuffed. Ty was taken away from me, pulled into a police car and questioned. We were not immediately released. Some minutes later, after they finally called my wife and daughter, we were let go without an apology. And the child had numerous questions and opinions about the incidents that I tried to accurately recollect.
So, on the basis of one factual error which I readily owned after seeing the conflicting video, I am a liar, says the chief. The strangest part is, Acevedo brought me into APD headquarters Thursday afternoon to meet with him and his staff, proposing that we do a media interview together and try and make all this a "teaching moment" for the public (his words). He was upset that the issue was being discussed without him getting to "frame" it. I'd turned down more than two-dozen requests for media interviews on this topic, from every local print and TV outlet to Anderson Cooper, but because the media frenzy had gotten so out of hand even without my participation, after mulling it over with the family, I agreed to do a joint interview with him (now decidedly not happening).
My first hint that Acevedo was about to show me an especially Janus-faced visage came Friday afternoon, when he began leaking emails and launching personal attacks on a local listserv through his favorite stalking horse, retired Texas Monthly publisher Mike Levy. Then Saturday in the paper he's calling me a liar. "Teaching moment" my ass.
It would be convenient for him if I were. Grits has been a bit of a thorn in the department's side dating to the mid-'90s when I co-founded a political action committee that successfully pushed for the creation of Austin's Police Monitor Office and ran a website publishing police misconduct reports from the department garnered under open records. So taking this opportunity to try and discredit me personally must have been just too tempting to pass up.
Did I intentionally make up the drawn taser? Of course not, no more than a witness who falsely identifies a suspect by mistake. In 2001, I helped pass the legislation to require cameras in police cars, for heaven's sake, I knew full well the incident was being taped! I said what I remembered and remembered that detail wrong. Vision and memory is not the same as a videotape. Anyone who follows innocence issues knows much of our vision of constructed from memory and witnesses make mistakes. Carl Reynolds from the Office of Court Administration once recounted how, after he and several others were accosted in a robbery in Atlanta, he "learned later that [he and his] colleagues ... did not even agree on the number of young men." Were some of them lying? I don't think so. Neither was I, and I'm man enough to admit I was wrong. Hence the correction.
Similarly, I was wrong to assume the deputy constable called in the cavalry. With 20/20 hindsight, having reviewed all the materials the chief showed me (which is more than the press has seen so far), she's the one who did it right, investigating a serious allegation without needlessly scaring a child or applying more restrictive force than was necessary to contain the situation. She also told APD moments before they detained me that she'd spoken to the child, gave them her name, and said I was her Grandpa. My apologies for my original, false interpretation, both to the deputy and Constable Danny Thomas' shop.
Many, many people have asked whether I will sue or file a complaint, so let me reiterate here, just as I said in the blog comments and in writing to Chief Acevedo and Ms. Osborn (though somehow she didn't find it fit to print): "Not only am I not going to sue the police, I doubt anyone even violated APD policies so a complaint wouldn't do much either - they're TRAINED to respond like that, which is my main beef with what happened. This wasn't a bug in the system, it's a feature."
As I said in Grits comments and to the Chief, both face to face in front of a roomful of brass and in writing, I don't believe what those officers did violated any law, departmental policy or court ruling, and in fact it likely conformed to APD's training and the expectations of their supervisors. I never said otherwise. It was completely "by the book." But there are some really good books that may not be completely appropriate for a five-year old. I'm not saying don't investigate, I'm saying exercise some self-restraint, discretion and common sense, like the deputy did. When your investigation is happening in front of a small child and there's no immediate threat, I prefer the deputy constable's book to APD's approach. That's the full extent of any policy criticism I have on the incident.
What bugs me most about the Statesman article wasn't some cop calling me a liar - that happens twice a week if you read Grits comments. No, what gets my goat is the chief spent nearly two hours glad handing me on Thursday and never once called me a liar, never once alleged bad faith, said he wanted us to move forward to respond together, blah, blah, blah. Then the next day he ropes in some in-the-can Statesman reporter, dripping out partial information to do a hatchet piece.
There are many types of courage in the world. The kind of courage to confront criminals on the street is certainly one type. Then there's the courage required to admit a mistake. And there's having the grit to look a man in the eye and say the same things to his face that you do behind his back. Or perhaps that last one has become an outdated virtue?
RELATED: Just so Grits can say they've been published as prominently as the original post, here are the two corrections I appended to the original blog post on Friday:
UPDATE/CORRECTIONS (2/17): Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to review the documentation, video, audio and police reports related to this incident in Art Acevedo's office and heard his pitch why this blog post was unfair. There are really only two corrections I'd make having now seen the videos and other documentation Chief Acevedo showed me yesterday. (I'm probably going to write about it again over the weekend.) First, I recollected in the blog post that an officer had a taser drawn and from the video the officer's arm was only crooked and prepared to draw. It happened in a flash and like many eyewitnesses, when under a perceived threat, my mind filled in some pieces erroneously, I'll be the first to admit in light of the video evidence. It was not an intentional error. That said, I correctly perceived that all of a sudden a LOT of cops were on us out of nowhere and if I'd made any sudden or untoward moves I'd be tazed or worse. I think it wasn't unreasonable for either of us to feel threatened by them rolling up on us like that.
The other error was that the original post cast unfair blame on the deputy constable. Her report said that after we'd spoken, she was heading back to the Millenium Center thinking the incident was over when the dispatcher patched into the constable's frequency because they'd heard from the Millenium Center she'd gone after us. In the dispatcher's audio, she tells APD just before they roll up on us that she'd spoken to us, gave them Ty's name and told them I was her grandpa. Though I blamed her (unfairly) both at the scene and in the initial post, falsely thinking she'd called in the cavalry, she did not. In fact, in the scheme of things she got it right. Basically two departments with overlapping jurisdictions responded to this complaint: One came at us based on a community policing approach where she walked up calmly, asked a few questions, and according to her report was satisfied and had begun to return to her shift until she heard on the radio APD was coming. By contrast, APD handcuffed first and asked questions later. That's the big difference between the two departments' approaches.