Multiple Austin City Council members said they lost faith in Police Chief Brian Manley on Friday and some asked him to resign following his handling of the ongoing protests against police brutality spurred by the death of George Floyd.
Council member Greg Casar was the only one to explicitly ask Manley to step down, adding that he hopes the police chief does the "honorable" thing, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Council member Jimmy Flannigan was more subtle, suggesting Manley could better work to reform police policy and culture as a private citizen, and Council member Sabino Renteria said he will join Casar in calling for a resignation if he doesn't see a commitment to change. Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza gave voice to her longstanding issues with the police department on Thursday evening during a city council meeting, saying she was “an early supporter of Chief Manley" but has become "incredibly disappointed in what feels like complete disregard for the reform efforts this council has consistently tried to implement."
Countless protesters had called in to the virtual city council meeting on Thursday, which Manley and City Manager Spencer Cronk also attended, to demand the police chief resign or be fired. Some said the department should have its budget slashed or be defunded completely, and others even suggested the entire force be disbanded and rebuilt from scratch — a move Minneapolis is considering after a white officer killed Floyd, a black man, by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Manley listened stoically to hours of testimony as caller after caller condemned his officers' sometimes unprovoked use of "less lethal" weapons — like tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds — which sent at least 29 people to the hospital.
Police shot 16-year-old Brad Levi Ayala in the head with a bean bag round that penetrated his skull and caused damage to his prefrontal cortex. Officers also critically injured Justin Howell, a 20-year-old black man, when they shot him in the back of the head with a "less lethal" round while aiming for another protester the department says threw a backpack and water bottle at police.
When Casar asked Manley on Thursday what he was doing to make sure what happened to Ayala was never repeated, the police chief said the department would no longer use bean bag rounds in crowd control situations. But Casar said the answer was insufficient as Ayala was standing apart from other protesters when he was struck.
Despite protesters' demands, the City Council doesn't have the authority to outright fire Manley, and neither does the city manager. Cronk can only demote Manley to his rank before he became department head.