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Memo: Austin officer suspended after driving wrong way in I-35 chase

An Austin police officer has been suspended after being accused of driving the wrong way on Interstate 35 while pursuing a robbery suspect, according to a Police Department memo.

Officer Steven Martinez is suspended from July 16 to Aug. 4, Police Chief Art Acevedo wrote in the memo to the department’s civil service director Thursday. The document says this isn’t Martinez’s first disciplinary action, but it didn’t provide details about previous incidents.

Martinez pursued a robbery suspect on Jan. 17, the memo says. The suspect drove the wrong way down I-35, nearly colliding with two vehicles, and Martinez followed him.

Department policy forbids officers from driving the wrong way on or anywhere near a highway.

While pursuing the suspect, Martinez went as fast as 105 mph, the memo says. In a 25 mph zone, he went as fast as 79 mph. According to the memo, video evidence shows that both vehicles drove through stop signs, red lights and outside their lanes.

Officers eventually caught up to the suspect’s vehicle. While other officers had a passenger from the vehicle cuffed and face down on the ground, the passenger attempted to speak to the suspected driver, the memo says. Martinez then walked over to the passenger, told him to shut up, grabbed his head and held him on the ground, placing his knee on the back and neck of the passenger, it says.

According to Acevedo, this is also in violation of department policy, which requires officers to “make every effort to be courteous and respectful toward all persons.”

Officers also cannot “use loud, indecent, profane, harsh, derogatory language, or use belittling terms in any communication” or “ridicule, mock, taunt, embarrass, humiliate or shame any person, nor do anything that might incite that person to violence,” according to Austin Police Department policy.

As a result, Martinez will have to attend any training specified by his chain of command and be on probation for one year starting on the day he returns, the memo says.

Martinez cannot appeal the suspension, which will be taken into account if he is ever up for a future promotion.

Before Martinez was suspended, the most recently suspended Austin officer was officer Nathaniel Stallings, suspended in May, who was also accused of driving on the wrong side of the road while trying to catch a suspect last fall.

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