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Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed an indicted Austin officer accused of using excessive force during 2020 protests to Texas’ regulatory police agency.
Justin Berry was among 19 Austin cops indicted earlier this season in the protests spurred by the murder of George Floyd by way of a Minneapolis officer. Berry is charged with two counts of aggravated assault by way of a public servant.
He also ran as a Republican for Texas House District 19 but lost in the principal runoff election this season. Abbott had endorsed Berry in the race, saying his “strong conservative values and experience stopping violent crime are just what we are in need of in the Texas House.”
Now, at the governor’s hand, Berry will serve on the Texas Commission on POLICE, which sets minimum licensing and training standards for police. Abbott didn’t immediately react to The Texas Tribune’s obtain comment, however in a news release announcing Berry’s appointment Friday, he said the commission ensures “that individuals of Texas are served by experienced and ethical police, corrections, and telecommunications personnel.” Berry posted a statement to Twitter on Friday but didn’t react to requests for comment.
“The demands and expectations of today’s professional officer haven’t been so excellent,” Berry said about his appointment via Twitter. “I anticipate ensuring Texas gets the best cops on earth. Ensuring those that answer the decision to serve their respective communities have working out and resources essential to be setup for success certainly are a priority never to only keeping Texan’s safe but ensuring trust is earned and maintained by those very communities.”
Sara Mokuria, co-founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, said Abbott’s decision to appoint Berry to TCOLE is dangerous, not located in public safety and flies when confronted with “what’s in the very best interests of Texans.”
“That is an indicted officer who’s now section of the body licensing and regulating police agencies,” Mokuria said. “It is a move in the incorrect direction, also it makes us unsafe. And, to be honest, it is a message that is reiterated from the governor’s mansion again and again, whether that be families in Uvalde who have been not safe to send their kids to school, or all Texas residents through the winter storm. Our lives and our safety have consistently been jeopardized due to this governor.”
Berry’s exact role in the Floyd protests is unclear, but Austin officers grievously wounded several people after shooting them with “less-lethal” ammunition in the top. That included a 20-year-old Black man police said had not been their intended target following a man nearby tossed a water bottle and backpack up toward steps where police were in formation. Video also showed a 16-year-old Hispanic boy collapsing to the bottom after police fired a beanbag bullet at him while he was standing alone close to the freeway.
The violent police tactics through the protests against police violence were heavily criticized. Combined with the indictments of 19 officers, the town of Austin decided to a $10 million civil settlement with two men shot by police with beanbag rounds, like the 20-year-old.
Chas Moore, executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition, said Abbott appointing Berry despite his indictment “isn’t surprising.” Moore feels the governor said all the politically correct things after Floyd’s murder but followed up with inaction.
“He’s never cared about ensuring everybody could be safe,” the activist said. “He doesn’t value the national conversation that happened in 2020, where every state had some type of protest for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, you understand. He’s a diehard Texas Republican.”
Eleanor Klibanoff contributed to the story.
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This short article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/08/05/justin-berry-austin-police-excessive-force-greg-abbott/.
The Texas Tribune is really a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Find out more at texastribune.org.