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Austin Police launches investigation after photo sparks citywide outrage

Austin Police launch investigation after photo sparks citywide outrage

Austin Police Department police car
Austin Police are launching an internal investigation into a photo taken over the weekend. Courtesy of Austin Police Department/Facebook

Update: On November 4, the Austin Police Department issued the following correction: "The original press release stated that the Texas Police Spouses Association (TPSA) was a co-coordinator in this event. That was incorrect. TPSA were participants only."

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It's been a particularly tough week for the Austin Police Department, especially considering it's only Tuesday.

Over the weekend, multiple APD officers were photographed outside City Hall with members of the Texas Police Spouses Association and Wind Therapy Freedom Riders, some of whom were flashing white pride hand symbols and waving Trump flags. The photo quickly made its way onto social media, where it sparked outrage in the high-tension days leading up to the presidential election.

In a November 3 media release, APD said it was aware of the photo and launching an internal investigation.

"On Sunday, November 1, APD officers were working to provide a safe environment for a peaceful protest coordinated by the Texas Police Spouses Association and Wind Therapy Freedom Riders. At the end of the event, several officers, who we are working to identify, were asked to take a photo with participants, which is not an uncommon request from the community," says the release.

The photograph shows at least three of the protestors flashing the "okay" hand symbol, which has been co-opted by hate organizations and is now classified as a racist hand symbol by the Anti-Defamation League. In response, APD says it does not justify or condone political activities in uniform and has sent training materials to all officers and employees reminding them of the department's policy. 

Just hours after the photo was posted online, APD was dealt another public relations blow.

In June, the department came under fire after officers used "less lethal" rounds on peaceful protestors, leading to hospitalization of at least three people. On November 2, KUT published a bombshell report that revealed the department purchased thousands of beanbag rounds in August, just two months after APD Chief Brian Manley pledged to stop using them during an Austin City Council meeting. 

According to KUT, the day after Manley's pledge to city council, the city finalized a $42,000 order with Combined Tactical Systems, a global riot gear supplier, for 5,000 more "less lethal" rounds.