Redesigned APD Training Academy kicks off with community engagement


On a sunny afternoon, the cadets who hope to become Austin’s new cops mowed the grass, trimmed the bushes, and pulled out the weeds in the garden of the Edgar Fincher III program. Their work helped prepare the garden for the next planting cycle and planted seeds to strengthen community bonds.

At Austin Central Library, a panel discussion brings two strangers, a community leader and a student police officer to connect over coffee and a conversation about shared culture and values.

In a powerful and poignant meeting, cadets take their first steps in learning how to serve survivors of abuse and domestic violence.

A range of interactions and experiences, with one goal: fostering better relationships between Austin’s next class of police officers and the community members they will soon serve.

The 144e The Austin Police Department (APD) Police Training Academy cadet class began on June 7, 2021. The 34-week session is a pilot class, the first to complete training using the new Police Academy program and an expanded community engagement program as part of the City’s Comprehensive Initiative to Reinvent Public Safety (RPS).

The academy’s first two weeks focused on the new Community Connect program which aimed to help cadets get to know community leaders and other residents long before they put on a uniform.

The range of opportunities includes:

  • Community meetings: Members of various Austin communities, with a focus on under-represented voices, were invited to meet with the cadets and provide their perspective on the issues in their communities and the response they would like see from ODA.

  • Meet and greet: On June 15th from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., APD hosted an informal meeting at Edward Rendon Park where anyone from the community could meet and get to know the new cadet class.

  • Training with the SECURITY Alliance (focused on serving survivors of child abuse, sexual abuse / exploitation and domestic violence): On June 9, members of SAFE’s leadership provided an overview of the organization’s efforts, and then its staff trained cadets in trauma-informed care, working with people with disabilities and victim services.

  • Embellishment and improvement of public space in partnership with the Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC): Cadets work on projects at seven locations across the city as part of the community engagement phase of the training. Collaboration on these community service projects builds on a long-standing partnership between APD and DACC, serving the community and providing compassionate services to homeless people.

Projects have taken place in Austin:

  • Twenty cadets completed graffiti reduction work on the 6th Street, 7th Street and 8th Street pillars under Interstate-35.

  • Fifteen other cadets assisted in cleaning and recycling the yard at the Fleet Services emergency vehicle repair facility on Hargrave Street.

  • Twenty-five cadets used kayaks to patrol the shores of Lady Bird Lake to remove trash and debris.

  • Twenty cadets completed additional park beautification and graffiti reduction work at the Heath Eiland and Morgan Moss BMX Skate Park and Shoal Creek Trail.

  • Fifteen cadets worked in the CADC Edgar Fincher III program garden to prepare it for the next planting season. All crops grown in the garden are donated to local soup kitchens that provide meals for the homeless.

The DPA cadets met and interacted with members of the community during the meeting on June 15.

DPA cadets clear an I35 underpass

Cadets cleared an I35 underpass in partnership with DACC.

DPA cadets in kayaks clear trash and debris from Lady Bird Lake

Cadets kayaked to patrol and clean up Lady Bird Lake.

Beyond scheduled and planned community engagement events, the updated curriculum has already led to closer bonds between cadets and the residents they serve. In one case, a South Asian community leader who addressed the cadet class extended an open invitation to drop by his house for a cup of coffee and a more intimate discussion of Indian culture. A cadet picked it up and discovered one of Austin’s ethnic communities, while savoring a regional Indian specialty.

“We want to teach them how to relate to people and how to communicate the best way and, in many cases, how to defuse situations. Said Acting Police Chief Chacon.

The Reimagined Academy Pilot Class follows the City Manager Blueprint which outlines a collaborative and ongoing process of transforming the academy and creating a central focus on community contribution, with an emphasis on leadership servants, as well as programs and teaching methods imbued with diversity, equity and inclusion. .

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