AUSTIN — As the Democrat-run Austin City Council continues to “reimagine public safety”—or in other words, defund the Austin Police Department and teach racist theories to the staff—an officer shared his experience of one of the controversial classes.
Inside the Classroom
Recently, APD Commander Donald Baker wrote an internal memo to the police chief describing an incident at a May class by Joyce James Consulting. Texas Scorecard previously reported the city council is paying JJC $10,000 of taxpayer money per day to train the department staff in critical race theory, the hotly contentious racist ideology that states certain Americans are inherently inferior or superior and should be punished or promoted based on the color of their skin.
Baker said that at the beginning of the class, the facilitators showed a PowerPoint “contract” to the participants, telling them to verbally commit to agreeing with James’ teachings and—interestingly—not take any notes or talk about the material outside of class.
If they disagreed, they needed to leave.
“After the facilitator advised the class he is not an attorney and verified no one in attendance was an attorney[,] he said the contract was a binding agreement with the participants in the class,” Baker wrote. “He then proceeded to ask by show of hands who all agreed to the contract.”
Baker said he and at least one other staff member did not.
“After some discussion, it appeared the facilitator was going to move on, but Joyce James indicated there was another person who did not agree and pointed in my direction,” Baker described. “I explained to the facilitators and class that I had previously attended the Undoing Racism 2.5-day course and was exposed to the critical race theory of institutional racism and was not in agreement with the theory; therefore, I was not in agreement to the ‘contract’. I further expressed disagreement with the ‘Vegas rule.’”
“I further clarified as an attendee in a departmental training I would most definitely adhere to being respectful, attentive, participative, and open to listening to the material presented,” Baker continued. “My disagreement [was] with the way the ‘contract’ was presented … asking the participants in advance to make a personal commitment to support the foundational theory of institutional or systemic racism prior to the beginning of the course.”
Baker said he then discussed his concerns with Joyce James, clarifying if she indeed wanted him to leave if he did not fully agree to their “contract.”
“She clearly stated that was her desire,” Baker wrote.
Baker exited the classroom and said he made a call to other police leadership and expressed his concerns. After waiting for a break in the class, he was willing to re-enter but was told James wanted him to stay out.
What’s Going On?
“It is concerning that APD is requiring all class attendees to make a verbal or physical agreement to an arbitrary ‘contract’ to attend a department-sponsored course. Currently, I am not aware of another class where the participants were told to commit to a ‘contract’ stating they will not take notes for the training,” Baker explained.
“It is also concerning that a primary tenet to agree to is for each participant to bind themselves to the ‘Vegas rule,’ implying that all the topics discussed or shared in the class are not to be talked about or expressed outside of the classroom. When has that philosophy become a best practice in the adult learning environment? I understand the need to make participants feel comfortable to share lived experiences or personal opinions, but to make them hold to an unreasonable position of a ‘Vegas rule’ is questionable and unprofessional.”
Only One Viewpoint Allowed
“Joyce James made the decision to remove me from the class based on the fact I did not want to publicly profess a commitment to a ‘contract’ to be a participant in the Department’s APD Groundwater Analysis Training. I find it unsettling a facilitator on a topic surrounding diversity was not accepting my individual position and was opposed to a person with a diversity of thought from attending the training course she was facilitating,” Baker wrote.
“I made it clear I would be a professional and respectful participant in the course and would live up to the standards of conduct of my position. I do not feel I had to publicly profess a commitment and/or support of a specific theory, political ideology, or characterization of the U.S., Texas, Austin, or APD; or to beheld to denying me the ability to take course notes; or to discuss the course outside of the four walls of the training facility as a prerequisite to attend the class.”
“This wasted my time and resources to travel to the training academy to be expelled from the course because I had a difference of opinion,” Baker concluded. “It also created an awkward, distressing situation of being singled out, along with another employee, and kicked out of a training course for holding personal standards, integrity, values, and opinion.”
The Broader Story
Baker’s account comes after the Austin City Council defunded APD last year by up to $150 million (one-third of their budget), canceling multiple cadet classes, forcing numerous APD units to disband, and leaving the department understaffed and, according to Police Chief Joseph Chacon, in a “dire situation.”
Meanwhile, 911 response times are “dramatically slower,” and violent crime and homicides have surged to all-time highs since last year.
Currently, citizen group Save Austin Now has successfully completed a petition campaign to put a proposed public safety law on the November ballot. The law would restore officers to APD and enact several other reforms to the department.
Austinites will make their voices heard on the police matter in November. Until then, concerned citizens may still contact the city council.