As 2021 opened, the Austin Police Department faced two crises. The extreme cuts to the police budget that Mayor Steve Adler and the city council, all Democrats, unanimously approved in August go into effect. Those cuts eliminate positions across the department and also eliminate upcoming cadet classes.
APD was also set to lose another 22 or so officers. It was shorthanded at the beginning of 2020, before the city council defunded it. Attrition through retirements and resignations left it even more shorthanded at the end of 2020.
A week ago, Travis County’s new district attorney, Jose Garza, added to the department’s woes. A grand jury under Garza’s direction indicted two officers, Gregory Gentry and Chance Bretches, for an incident that occurred in March 2019 — nearly two years ago.
The officers’ actions were reviewed at the time and found to have been objectively reasonable. APD’s chain of command, including Chief Brian Manley, signed off on the review. The district attorney at the time, Margaret Moore, was briefed on the incident and did not indict. The suspect in that case pled guilty and is serving prison time. The case was closed.
But Garza ran for the office on a platform not of fighting Austin’s rising crime but of fighting the police department. Garza benefited from contributions from left-wing billionaire George Soros or organizations he backs.
Philanthropist George Soros contributed $652,000 to the Texas Justice & Public Safety PAC between March 11 and May 29. According to Garza’s opponent, District Attorney Margaret Moore, the PAC spent more than $600,000 on digital media and glossy mail advertisements to help Garza. Moore’s campaign released a blistering attack on those expenditures saying, “The amount of money being poured into the district attorney’s race is alarming and abhorrent. Local elections should be decided by people from this community, free from the crushing influence of outside spending by PACs that are not accountable to this county.”
Garza says this number is incorrect and that his campaign staff have verified that the PAC actually spent $409,000 to help his campaign.
Soros-backed district attorneys have established two patterns: decriminalize low-level but real criminal behavior, and prosecute police officers. In Los Angeles, this is leading to chaos in the criminal justice system.
Officers Gentry and Bretches will be taken out of their police duties on paid leave while the court action against them proceeds, however long that takes. That’s two more officers APD will not have on duty. It’s possible they never return to duty in Austin.
The Austin Police Association came out swinging against Garza in a statement posted on Facebook. APA’s statement lays out the facts of the incident and puts DA Garza on notice.
So why are we here? The biggest reason we are here is because District Attorney Garza believes his sole role is to prosecute officers. Instead of going after violent criminals who continue to terrorize our city, he uses his time to maliciously prosecute these officers in an attempt to gain political favor from the activist community that he seeks to serve.
Mr. Garza, hear this. The Austin Police Association will not stand idly by while you use the hardworking men and women of the Police Department as pawns in your delusional game of political chess. We will proactively monitor the actions of your office having potential for extreme negative ramifications on our officers and the community in Austin, Travis County. The APA will take an active stance highlighting to the community your anti-police agenda and motivations behind your political decisions to unjustly prosecute officers who were lawfully fulfilling their duties to keep Austin safe.
Garza is reportedly reviewing about a dozen other past incidents with an eye toward prosecuting the officers involved. The nearly two-year-old incident involving Gentry and Bretches was thought to be one of the least likely to result in indictments because it was so thoroughly reviewed at the time; the then-DA was briefed, and it was closed. Incidents that occurred during the violent protests in the summer of 2020 are likely to come under Garza’s review in 2021, along with other previously closed cases.
An APD source tells PJ Media that Garza’s actions may open the “floodgates” and lead to yet more officers leaving the force in a “mass exodus.” This will not protect them from possible indictment if they happen to have been involved in any of the incidents Garza is reviewing, but it may help preserve their pensions and prospects for landing positions with other agencies. The source also questions whether APD will even be able to attract candidates once cadet classes resume, due to the city council’s actions and Garza’s indictments.
Crime is on the rise across Austin. Garza and the city council seem unconcerned, even in denial, about that, and continue to focus their attention on scrutinizing APD after they drastically defunded and are now demoralizing it.