Texas Governor Greg Abbott has appointed an Austin police officer to a nationwide police standards commission, despite the officer being part of a group of 19 officials charged with using excessive force during the George Floyd War. protests in 2020.
On Friday, Mr. Abbott praised the appointment of Officer Justin Berry, writing in a statement “that the people of Texas are served by highly trained and ethical law enforcement, correction and telecommunications personnel.”
TAUT has contacted the governor’s office for comment.
In February, Officer Berry and 18 other Austin-based police were indicted for using aggressive riot control tactics against 10 protesters who took part in the 2020 racial justice protests.
Mr Berry in particular was charged with two counts of aggravated assault by a public servant.
The indictment documents do not clearly distinguish which officers are charged, but the case shows that police officers with little training in riot control devastate unarmed protesters.
One of the protesters mentioned in the documents, Christen Warkoczewskizwas punched in the face with a police bag, breaking her jaw and leaving her disfigured.
The City of Austin has settled seven lawsuits related to excessive police brutality during the George Floyd protests for a total of $15 million, with 12 more pending cases.
A group of five of the 19 officers, not including Mr Berry, sued the city in June, claiming they had had “limited or no training” in weapons and riot control tactics.
Mr. Berry, who previously ran for the Texas legislature with the approval of the governor, has strongly denied any wrongdoing.
In February, he called the charges part of an “ongoing war against the police” and said he had already been acquitted by an internal investigation, a finding that would be repeated in court.
“This case is beyond ridiculous,” he said wrote in a statement on Twitter. “The question is not how this prosecution will turn out. We will be acquitted.”
He said this week he was delighted to be appointed to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which sets minimum licensing and training standards for the police force.
“The demands and expectations of today’s professional police officer have never been higher,” he wrote on Twitter. “I look forward to making sure Texas has the best police officers in the world. Ensuring that those who answer the call to serve their respective communities receive the training and resources necessary to be successful is a priority to not only keep Texan’s safe, but also to ensure that the trust is earned and preserved by those same communities.”
Observers were shocked that the governor had appointed someone with allegations of serious misconduct to the TCOLE.
“This is an indicted officer who is now part of the agency that licenses and regulates law enforcement agencies,” said Sara Mokuria, co-founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, told the Texas Tribune. “It is a step in the wrong direction and it makes us unsafe. And, frankly, it’s a message that’s been repeated time and again from the governor’s mansion, whether that’s families in Uvalde who couldn’t send their kids to school, or all Texas residents during the winter storm. Our lives and our security have been constantly endangered by this governor.”
State Representative Jarvis Johnson, a Democrat from Houston, called the appointment “absolutely reprehensible.”
“Nothing says ethical standards for law enforcement quite like appointing a police officer charged with aggravated assault for his actions during the George Floyd protest… which were about police brutality,” he said. tweeted.