The Austin City Council on Thursday unanimously approved the appointment of police Chief of Staff Brian Manley as interim chief in a mostly congratulatory affair that ended in applause.
But before the vote, Council Member Gregorio Casar asked to pull the issue of Manley’s appointment from the slate of routine items specifically to ask Manley how police will interact with Austin’s immigrant community under his watch.
The scene grew tense for a moment and foreshadowed a fight the largely progressive Austin City Council could face as more hard-line policies on immigration enforcement are likely to be handed down from newly empowered conservatives in Washington, D.C.
Casar’s question was interrupted by outgoing Council Member Don Zimmerman, the council’s most conservative voice.
“Point of order,” Zimmerman interjected. “He is asking an employee if they are potentially willing to violate federal law.”
Casar rephrased, asking Manley if he would focus on local crime over federal immigration enforcement.
“Our current practices and procedures will remain the same,” Manley said. “We will focus on criminality and not status.”
Acevedo left the department last month after 9½ years to lead the Houston Police Department. Interim City Manager Elaine Hart named Manley, 49, as Acevedo’s temporary successor the day after he accepted Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s offer to run the fifth-largest police department in the nation. Acevedo was sworn in on Wednesday.
A search for Acevedo’s formal successor could take more than a year, city officials have said. Hart said she is deferring the choice of permanent police chief to whomever is named permanent city manager.
Manley has been lauded for much of his 26-year career at the Austin Police Department, including a commendation in 1992 for repairing an elderly woman’s carburetor so she could drive back to Round Rock; and for helping save a man’s life in 1996 by performing CPR for an extended amount of time, according to his public personnel file.
His performance reviews are uniformly positive, including one that predicted he was destined for a high-level command position. The praise continued Thursday.
“I’m so grateful our city will continue to have good leadership and be in good hands,” Council Member Sheri Gallo said.
Council member Ora Houston said Manley has been a calming force to the city, noting his steady approach in dealing with the press after critical incidents, which have included the February fatal police shooting of unarmed teenager David Joseph. Manley was the face of the department for days in the immediate aftermath of the shooting while Acevedo was out of town.
Hart said she had high confidence in Manley’s ability to do the job.
A badge-pinning ceremony for Manley will take place Friday morning during a Blue Santa breakfast event sponsored by KOKE-FM at the Palmer Events Center.