Several former cadets at the Austin police training academy notified the city through a formal letter about the brutal and violent nature of the training they received to become police officers as the 137th Cadet Class for the Austin Police Department.
Instructors would threaten to “punch you in the face” if you said you wanted to become an officer to help people, according to former cadet Summer Spisak.
Academy staffers told cadets that a suspect who resists “just earned a legal ass-wooping,” Spisak also told the Austin-American Statesman.
Spisak, who wanted to become an officer after the Dallas police shootings in 2016, was unable to complete police academy due to an injury she suffered while practicing take-down moves after an instructor ordered another cadet to “throw her down like a man.”
“I wanted to make a difference,” she told the Statesman.
“I wanted to be part of the changing face of policing and have officers who respect the community.”
After experiencing police culture firsthand, she now has her real estate license and is no longer interested in becoming a cop.
Former cadet Johnathan Murray said instructors repeatedly degraded homeless people and prostitutes during training, referring to them as “cockroaches.”
Murray says cadets were encouraged to “find a transient” if they were bored and needed an easy felony arrest.
Throughout the academy, instructors showed videos and images of transients and prostitutes to the cadet class for the only apparent reason being to make fun of the individuals and create a cadet buy-in of the cop culture mentality.
Cadet Michael Gibbons, who served four years in the Navy, was shocked when an instructor told cadets about sitting in a police cruiser watching two women fight instead of intervening “to get a laugh out of it.”
Gibbons and Murray both suffered injuries during “defensive tactics” training where neither men where given any prior defense training other than punching a static object before being forced to enter a makeshift ring where they were beaten and knocked down by their instructors several times.
After being beaten, the cadets were instructed to “get back out there” and “fight like their lives depended on it,” according to the letter filed by their attorneys.
Murray was knocked out of the ring and told to “get his ass back in the ring and fight.”
In his clients’ letter to the City of Austin, which can be read below, attorney Derek Howard provides more examples of abuse during police academy training.
One instructor told cadets they needed to achieve a “winning warrior mentality” by choosing some person in their daily lives – preferably not a child or older woman – and visualize themselves “shooting that person in the face.”
Another instructor told cadets the unofficial rule is that “If an officer ends up in the hospital, that the person arrested better end up in the hospital as well.”
Instructor Officer Ralston witnessed Murray struggling during a training exercise and asked him if “he wanted to end up in prison and to get f****d in the a**.”
In his letter, attorney Howard argues the behavior by the instructors is contrary to the Austin Police Department’s stated vision, mission and values and that it is even more deplorable that it is being directed at the very men and women who are training to protect the residents and the City of Austin.
Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley says he stands by the training.
“We are giving them the requisite knowledge they need to go out and succeed in a very difficult profession,” Manley told the Statesman.
“I am very satisfied with how we are training the men and women of the Austin Police Department.”
“If I wasn’t, I’d make changes.”
Read Howard’s letter, written on behalf of the former cadets, here.