WATCH: City Approves $425,000 Payment to Settle Breaion King’s Excessive Force Lawsuit

Austin will pay $425,000 to an African-American schoolteacher whose violent arrest in 2015 sparked nationwide outrage.

On Thursday, City Council members unanimously approved an agreement with Breaion King to settle a lawsuit she filed against the city. Video that surfaced in 2016 as a result of an American-Statesman investigation showed an Austin police officer throwing King to the ground twice during a traffic stop for speeding. In the video, a second officer, Patrick Spradlin, tells King that police are wary of blacks because of their “violent tendencies.”

“This was not our city at its best,” Mayor Steve Adler said.

Adler added that he was deeply disturbed by a recent hearing to discuss the King incident and other similar use-of-force issues that might indicate deeper institutional problems. He said he wants to see continued efforts by police to emphasize fair treatment of all Austinites.

“This was more than just an isolated incident in our city,” the mayor said.

City staffers said interim Police Chief Brian Manley planned to meet with King in the coming weeks, and her lawyer said King is looking forward to the meeting. The city reached a tentative agreement with King last week, though her lawyers and several council members had declined to disclose the amount of the proposed settlement.

Police leadership didn’t learn of the incident involving King until after a state-mandated deadline had passed to discipline Bryan Richter, the officer who pulled King from her car and shoved her to the ground. His immediate supervisors at the time gave him a reprimand. The department changed its use-of-force oversight policies after the incident.

Richter was accused again of excessive force for stepping on a suspect’s head during an arrest and was fired early this year. He is appealing his termination.

A statement from King’s attorney, Erica Grigg, said King is “grateful to be able to put her legal battle behind her, but she knows there is still work to do.”

“She came forward because she did not want anyone else to have to endure what she experienced,” the statement said. “She is glad Officer Richter is off the streets, but she is disappointed that it took someone else getting hurt by him for his termination to transpire. She remains concerned that Officer Spradlin’s videotaped, racist remarks that black people have ‘violent tendencies’ is a representation of a department-wide attitude.”

The statement added that King loves the city of Austin, “knows our community can do better” and will continue to work as an elementary school teacher and advocate for social justice.

King’s case was set for trial in August, but lawyers for her and the city told the judge this month that they had reached a settlement.

In a statement last week, Council Member Greg Casar said the settlement and a formal apology “are the very least the city can do.”

“Since Ms. King’s unnecessary and violent arrest by the Austin Police Department, we have partnered with the community to improve the city’s de-escalation and use of force rules,” he said. “If we want to create an Austin that is safe for everyone, and ensure justice for Ms. King and many more, then we as a city must commit ourselves to further reforms.”

King’s case became public only months after the 2016 shooting of David Joseph, a naked, unarmed 17-year-old, by police officer Geoffrey Freeman. Freeman was fired, but a grand jury declined to indict him in Joseph’s death.

Concerns about officers’ use of force and department oversight led many community activists to oppose a proposed labor contract with officers late last year. Council members rejected the contract — partially in response to those concerns but largely due to worries about the cost — and negotiations are ongoing.

This week, officers raised objections to specialty pay expiring amid the negotiations. Meanwhile, a citizen review oversight panel remains suspended.

On Thursday, Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria noted that community concerns about police conduct and fairness make issues such as the ongoing negotiations even more difficult.

“The PR that comes with these kinds of issues is making it very difficult for us to pad budgets for police officers,” he said. “The public is fed up with it.”


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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