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Austin's embattled police chief steps down after 3 years as top brass

Austin's embattled police chief steps down after 3 years as top brass

Austin Police chief Brian Manley
Brian Manley will retire after 30 years with APD. Courtesy photo

After 30 years with the department and nearly three years as the top brass, Austin Police chief Brian Manley is stepping down.

According to a memo from city manager Spencer Cronk, Manley will officially retire on March 28. According to APD, Manley, Cronk, and assistant city manager Rey Arellano will speak about the decision at 11 am on Friday, February 12. 

As noted by reporter Tony Plohetski, who first broke the news in KVUE and the Austin American-Statesman, Manley hit his 30-year mark with APD on February 1. 

Manley's tenure as interim chief began in 2016 after Art Acevedo stepped down to take the top spot in the Houston Police Department — apparently leaving behind little love for his former hometown. (But that's another story.)

On the outside, Manley's appointment seemed destined — a native Austinite, a UT grad, a career officer with leadership experience in nearly every APD department — but it was his handling of the Austin Bombings in spring 2018 that cemented his position as the new chief. Though Manley and APD garnered criticism for failing to call it a hate crime, which it later turned out to be, it didn't stop his eventual confirmation by Austin City Council later that summer. 

Like most major U.S. cities, Austin's summer of unrest in 2020 trained the spotlight back on Manley and his department, particularly their handling of the May protests. During the demonstrations, at least four people were critically injured by "less-lethal" weapons used by police officers. In June, multiple members of Austin City Council called for Manley's resignation, though Cronk — the sole person who has the ability to hire or fire the chief — refused. 

Though his tenure as chief was greatly blemished by the department's handling of the 2020 protests, the department under Manley has also had successes. The chief was named one of the world's 50 greatest leaders for 2019 by Fortune, and under his leadership, Austin continues to be one of the safest big cities in the U.S.

According to Cronk's memo, Manley's resignation will kick off a nationwide search for his successor. With the recent vote by Austin City Council to reallocate $150 million from the police budget, there is no doubt that all eyes will be on Cronk while he makes his decision. Once he selects Manley's successor, that person must be confirmed by city council before taking over the top spot.

"I want to thank Chief Manley for his leadership and service to the City of Austin," Cronk said in the memo. "He has been a dedicated public servant to this community for three decades and has proudly led the men and women of our police department during incredibly challenging times."