By Sandra Harris
Last week, Austin police chief Brian Manley announced his resignation months after the people of Austin demanded that he leave the department. These demands escalated last summer when Austin made national news during the May Uprisings for the brutal response from police towards protesters. Manley has announced his resignation during a lull in anti-police brutality protests, stating he would officially leave the department on March 28.
Manley led Austin police as interim chief starting in November 2016 after former APD chief Art Acevedo left to take the top police post in Houston. After a series of bombings in the spring of 2018 that killed two people and injured several others, he was quickly appointed permanent chief and applauded by politicians and liberals at the time for his handling of the response.
Manley was born and raised in Austin and began his career as a patrol officer 30 years ago. As chief, he received wide support from inside the department, since promotion to the top position from within the ranks of a police department is rare.
Public support waned for Chief Manley, particularly in 2019 after he permitted former assistant chief Justin Newsom to retire with a hefty benefits package made up of accrued sick time right before reports emerged that he used racist language against Black people for over a decade.
Manley becoming police chief marked a change in police tactics regarding protests. During the reign of his predecessor, APD used low-intensity tactics attempting to ‘guide’ non-permitted protests. Under Manley, the police would brutalize and shut down street protests. Nonetheless, APD were often overtaken by protesters in the May Uprisings, which were relentless in their justified outrage. Police launched tear gas and ‘less-lethal’ rounds at protesters in response, seriously injuring several people. This caused even greater outrage, and demands for Manley’s resignation by community organizations and protesters gained traction.
Manley feigned compassion for those injured by Austin police while pledging before Austin City Council that they would never use so-called ‘less-lethal’ rounds on protesters again. It was later reported that contracts with a supplier for these ‘less lethal’ rounds had been secured the day before. Tribune of the People has documented APD’s readiness to use such munitions against protesters only days after Manley’s false promises.
Politicians responded to community demands by making empty gestures to show their displeasure with Manley while shirking any real responsibility for removing him, stating that under state law only the city manager could demote the chief from that position. City Manager Spencer Cronk refused to take any action against Manley.
While this is a superficial change in terms of the capitalist police forces protecting the rich, the people succeeded in forcing Manley’s resignation due to their justified hatred for him. Manley for his part timed his resignation in a petty effort to rob the protesters of their victory, and did so to prevent inspiring more protests.
Figures like Manley and Cronk oversee and are responsible for the police shootings and killings in Austin, and successfully pushing Manley to resign is a victory. These bourgeois agents are in contradiction with each other, and the next police chief should continue to receive the same relentless vitriol from the people. Whether the police resort to the low-intensity tactics used by Acevedo, or the hands-on brutal repression used by Manley, protesters and militants know well that the role of the police is to suppress and abuse the people, and as such are enemies of the people.
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