Next APD Chief Faces Rising Crime, Staffing Crisis, Need for Labor Contract, low Rank & File Morale
Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN, Texas – After a distinguished career spanning a quarter of a century, Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon is set to retire from his post on August 31st, leaving behind a legacy of service and commitment to the Austin community. Chacon has served the Austin Police Department with dedication for an impressive 25 years.
As he prepares to step down, Chacon's Chief of Staff Robin Henderson (above right,) has been chosen to serve as the interim police chief until a nationwide search for a permanent police chief can be concluded. Henderson brings a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the department's operations, having served alongside Chief Chacon for several years.
Chief Chacon's tenure as police chief was marked by both challenges and achievements. He faced the unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, and calls for police reform. Despite these challenges, Chief Chacon worked to ensure the safety of Austin residents – while also listening to the concerns of the community.
He played a crucial role in guiding the department through these turbulent times, emphasizing the importance of community engagement and communication.
The non-partisan Save Austin Now PAC released a statement thanking Chief Joe Chacon for his decades of service to Austin, and congratulated Chief Robin Henderson for being named interim Police Chief.
“Save Austin Now wishes to thank APD Chief Joe Chacon for his decades of service to our community and his commitment to improving public safety. We wish him well in retirement,” said co-founders Matt Mackowiak and Cleo Petricek, adding,“We would also like to congratulate Chief Robin Henderson on being appointed interim police chief, and we're confident that she will do an excellent job.
"The city now embarks on a national search for a new police chief and residents cannot afford for this effort to fail. This search will occur at a low point for public safety in our city.
"Amid rising crime, inadequate 911 response times and the most profound police staffing crisis in our city’s history, we must select a new police chief that can dramatically improve recruiting and retention and secure a new labor contract with the city," said Mackowiak and Petricek.
"The current Mayor and City Council tragically let a collectively bargained four-year labor contract die in February, and now there is no pathway forward with a modest pay increase and benefit protections set to expire in March.
"Austin has 400 fewer police officers today than we did three years ago and hardly a day goes by when there isn’t a critical incident in our city," they said.
During his tenure, Chief Chacon worked tirelessly to make Austin safer and build trust within the community. His career began in 1996 when he joined the force as a patrol officer. Over the years, Chief Chacon steadily climbed the ranks, serving in various critical roles that included stints in the Homicide Unit, Internal Affairs, and the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. This diverse experience equipped him with a deep understanding of the complex challenges that police officers face and the needs of the community.
Before becoming Chief of Staff, Henderson served as an Assistant Chief in the Austin Police Department, overseeing various divisions, including the Special Operations Bureau and the Support Services Bureau. Her career in law enforcement spans over two decades, during which she has demonstrated strong leadership and a commitment to community-oriented policing.
During her tenure as interim police chief, Henderson is expected to continue the department's commitment to transparency, accountability, and community engagement. Her leadership will be pivotal in maintaining public trust and addressing the evolving challenges that law enforcement faces in today's society.
As Chief Chacon retires after 25 years of service, Chief Henderson will take the interim position when ratification is complete at the August 31st, 2023 Austin City Council Meeting when Chief Chacon’s retirement will begin.
"Until City Hall rejects the poison of police abolitionists and their allied activists – and ensures we have a strong, adequately staffed police department – public safety will continue to deteriorate,” the two said.