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Complaint details alleged racist statements by former APD leader

File image of former APD Assistant Chief Justin Newsom. (CBS Austin)
File image of former APD Assistant Chief Justin Newsom. (CBS Austin)
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Community leaders and elected officials are speaking out after a high-ranking former member of the Austin Police Department is accused of repeated racism.

APD Assistant Chief Justin Newsom retired October 30 -- the same day a formal complaint was filed against him. Friday morning CBS Austin learned what Newsom is accused of saying after copies of the formal complaint were handed out at a press conference called by three council members.

The complaint states Newsom repeatedly used the "n-word" to describe African Americans for “at least the last decade.” The complainant says Newsom used that derogatory language when talking about colleagues, subordinates, a council member and President Obama. The complaint alleges the language in these instances:

  • “While advising President Obama landed in Austin AC Newsom stated ‘n---- one down’”
  • “When describing council woman Ora Houston AC Newsom stated ‘She is a dumb n---- but a nice lady’”
  • “When talking about Chief Dixon AC Newsom stated ‘Frank is a n---- but he is our n-----'
  • “When on a Special Response Team deployment AC Newsom called Officer LaMarcus Wells and Officer Kheston Campbell ‘stupid f------ n------.’”

The complaint also says “all assistant chiefs were made ware of AC Newsom using the extremely derogatory term ‘n-----' and failed to report it for investigation or review. It also alleges Newsom was involved in a family violence altercation with another current city employee.

In a text message to CBS Austin Newsom said,

I am aware of the anonymous complaint that has been filed against me. Although I don’t remember having made the alleged statements, I have used inappropriate language in private conversations with friends. Racial insensitivity is inexcusable and doesn’t reflect my values, the values of our community, or the Austin Police Department. Despite using poor judgment, I hope my 23-year career as a police officer who treated everyone with dignity and respect will reflect my best intentions to serve this city. I sincerely apologize to anyone that I may have hurt with my words.

At a press conference Thursday Austin City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison said she’s sickened but not surprised. “The idea that an open racist could rise to the top of the ranks of our police department should shake every Austinite to their very core,” she said. Three council members including Harper-Madison, Greg Casar and Delia Garza joined about a dozen community leaders to confront the racist allegations.

“If in fact Chief Manley knew... he needs to be held accountable,” said mayor pro-tem Garza. Austin’s city manager is ordering an independent investigation to find out if the allegations are true. “To think somebody with that public presence was sending these kind of messages it's no doubt why others are wondering, ‘Who else?’” Garza said.

“If Austin is actually committed to all of this progressive kumbaya and racial kumbaya that we say... we need some actual system change. We need some people change,” said Chaz Moore, founder of the Austin Justice Coalition.

Moore presented several action items for APD saying the department should:

  • Audit social media, phone and email communications for racist commentary
  • Update disciplinary policies related to racist communication
  • Prohibit retirement with full benefits when an investigation is underway
  • Halt cadet classes until new curriculum seriously addresses racism

“Until we get serious about actually changing some systems changing some institutions, getting radical and getting new with some ideas... we'll be doing this again next week next year next month,” Moore said.

“You believe what I'm standing up for? Then stand next to me as a true co-conspirator. Don't be my ally. Fight with me to make this city the best it can possibly be,” said Harper-Madison.

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CBS Austin has reached out to the Austin Police Department for comment.

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