Austin police name interim chief, start national search

Assistant Chief Joe Chacon will face city council confirmation this week to lead the department

By Tony Plohetski and Ryan Autullo
Austin American-Statesman

AUSTIN — Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk has tapped Assistant Chief Joe Chacon to lead the Police Department in an interim status while he launches a national search for the next permanent chief.

In selecting Chacon, a 22-year department veteran, Cronk bypassed the department's chief of staff, Troy Gay, the department's second-in-command who had been expected to fill the position during the search.

Assistant Chief Joe Chacon, seen here in 2018, has been an assistant chief for nearly five years.
Assistant Chief Joe Chacon, seen here in 2018, has been an assistant chief for nearly five years. (Lynda M. Gonzalez/American-Statesman)

Chacon, who has been an assistant chief for nearly five years, will face city council confirmation this week and will formally take over the department when Chief Brian Manley departs March 28.

Both Gay and Chacon have been contenders for other police chief positions across the state and nation recently.

Most recently, Chacon was named a finalist in Waco earlier this year, and Gay was a finalist for the Fort Worth Police Department.

Chacon, who joined the force in 1998, has worked in, and overseen, multiple divisions and most recently has supervised patrols of downtown Austin and special events. He also manages the department's Special Operations Division, which includes SWAT and air patrol.

Chacon volunteers with the Special Olympics Texas as well as the Austin Miracle League, a baseball league for children with special needs, because of his daughter's involvement in the programs.

During a bombing spree in Austin three years ago, Chacon faced criticism for his comments about the first victim, saying that police had so little to go on that they could not conclusively call Anthony Stephan House's March 2, 2018, death a homicide.

In recent days, some members of Austin's activist community have expressed concerns to Cronk about the possible appointment of Gay, who has been with the department for more than 30 years. Among their complaints is that he was too closely tied to Manley, who they complained did not do enough to advance efforts to reform policing.

Cronk has scheduled a 10 a.m. news conference to name Chacon has interim chief and to discuss his plans for a national chief search. He has said that he plans to expedite the process and seat a new chief in several months.

In a Feb. 23 letter addressed to Cronk and other city officials, 20 activist groups or individuals said replacing Manley with a reform-minded interim chief would "send a strong message that we are serious about reform if we hope to get the best available applicants for a permanent chief."

Chacon's appointment will be among two key policing matters the City Council takes up next week. The other is a formal vote to reopen the cadet training academy, which was shut indefinitely in October over concerns identified in multiple reports about the way the department trained new officers. Last year, the council cut funding for three cadet classes scheduled in the current fiscal year.

Thursday's vote is on whether to reopen the academy by no later than June 7.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Assistant Chief Joe Chacon selected interim Austin police chief; choice faces council approval

(c)2021 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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