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APD Uh-Oh

Latest viral video asks important question: Just what is going on at the Austin Police Department?

Austin Police Department Amanda Jo Stephen
Chris Quintero/Flickr

The Austin Police Department is under fire once again after another video went viral Thursday. This time, instead of a fight held just two blocks from APD Headquarters, the video shows a young woman being arrested while jogging in West Campus.

On February 20, Amanda Jo Stephen was running on West 24th Street when she was stopped by a member of the Austin Police Department in front of Kismet Cafe for allegedly jaywalking. Chris Quintero, an advertising student at the University of Texas at Austin who was across the street when Stephen was stopped, filmed and photographed the incident.

 These incidents are indicative of a greater question, "Just what exactly are APD's priorities?" 

According to a spokesperson for the APD, the official reason for Stephen's arrest is failure to identify. On his blog, Quintero speculates the reason things escalated was miscommunication. Witnesses say that Stephen, whose purple ear buds are clearly visible in the photograph, allegedly crossed the street outside of a designated crosswalk.

"Startled, and not knowing it was a cop, she jerked her arm away," Quintero writes. "The cop viewed this as resisting arrest and proceeded to grab both arms tightly, placing her in handcuffs." Handcuffed and on the ground, the video shows Stephen repeatedly yelling, "I didn't do anything wrong." She was eventually taken away in an APD police car.

After the video a few weeks ago of a street fight that took place on the corner of East Sixth and Brushy Streets went viral along with questions about APD's capabilities as a department, it seems that APD is damned if they do and damned if they don't. Anyone with a smart phone can turn a critical lens towards our police department — and lately people are doing so en masse.

But why this sudden shift towards criticizing the Department? Is it the desire for the filmmaker to be an Internet sensation for a day or two? Perhaps. But perhaps it is also indicative of a disconnect between a police force and the people it serves.

As reactions to these videos indicate, Austinites don't like seeing joggers carted away in a squad car for jaywalking after being handcuffed and on the ground. We don't want a department that needs a viral video to tell it that a heavily trafficked area between two strips of bars should probably have some sort of police presence on a weekend night.

These incidents are indicative of a greater question, "Just what exactly are APD's priorities?" Is there an attempt to understand the city — and the citizens — the Department has sworn to serve? Or will the good ol' boy attitude prevail? Because, while we may be Texans, there aren't many Austinites who find shooting unarmed men or dogs, or arresting blonde women in braids while they jog, an acceptable use of taxpayer money.

We need a police force that represents the best interest of the people, not one focused on protecting the reputation of a department that is struggling to adjust to a changing Austin.

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