City of Austin officials apologize to sexual assault victims whose cases were mishandled

Some survivors say recent hiring decisions by city officials felt like a slap in the face.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin leaders spent Tuesday apologizing to more than a dozen survivors of sexual assault.

City officials issued an apology to 15 survivors who had their cases mishandled by the Austin Police Department. But leading up to that apology, the city announced plans to rehire former APD Chief Art Acevedo, who oversaw the department when many of those mishandlings happened.

Following the controversial hire, Acevedo announced Tuesday that he’s not taking the job.

The settlement, which was finalized in 2022, stemmed from years of mishandled cases, and thousands of untested rape kits. Officials said the apology shows that they want to continue to make things right. But some survivors say Acevedo’s hiring announcement said otherwise.

“We can all agree that the cases of the survivors were involved and were not handled appropriately,” said Austin’s Interim Assistant City Manager Bruce Mills.

Years of errors and missteps in handling sexual assault cases in Austin left lingering pain for many survivors.

“I had to force them to come and fingerprint my home because they didn’t,” Julie Ann Nitsch said. “It was a break-in, and they didn’t even fingerprint where the man had broken in. He had tied my roommate up. They didn’t do anything with that.”

Nitch said she expects change from the city, but said recent hiring decisions, like bringing back Acevedo for a new city hall job, felt like a slap in the face.

“He was the one that instituted the acceptable clearance and … Retaliated against folks that wouldn’t falsify clearance claims,” said Nitsch.

Several city leaders spoke out about the hiring after it was announced Friday.

“Friday’s change of events really undermined the trust that we had built over a long period of time with the survivors and among the folks who need to make the change happen,” said Austin Council Member Alison Alter.

Nitsch said she is already seeing the city’s commitment and investment into units like Victim Services but that APD still has work to do.

“About a year ago, I had some survivors over to my house that were contemplating reporting,” Nitsch said. “When I called 911, victim services showed up before the police. They handled it beautifully. They talked to the women. They consulted them.

Meanwhile, Mills said the timing of Acevedo’s hiring announcement was unfortunate, but he believes he would have been the right person for the job and will still call on him for advice.

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