Interview with Rudolph Williams


Rudolph Williams is a community activist against police brutality in Austin Texas. In Video 1, he talks about growing up in a community where he witnessed a lot of tension and brutality with the Police Department. He began community organizing when he joined the fight against gentrification of the Blacklands at UT Austin while he was in college. He talks about Sophia King and the problems that arise when mentally ill citizens come in contact with police. He talked about working with neighborhood associations across Austin to advocate for a change in APD’s use of force policy. He also talks about his hope that the APD moves away from the “reasonable officer standard” to the “preservation of life standard” which he believes would save the lives of many minority victims of police shootings. In Video 2, he discusses problems with recruiting police officers from the outside. He then discusses a personal incident in which a police officer pulled him over and accused him of drinking and smoking marijuana and put him in handcuffs for not turning on his car lights in time. He then discusses Houston’s push for a more diverse police force and how he sees their efforts as relatively successful. He goes on to discuss the Travis County Sheriff’s Office and how their leadership has helped them be a more open-minded law enforcement agency. He discusses the leadership of the APD and the Sheriff’s department. He discusses regional policing and the different tactics employed in East and West Austin and differences in cities such as Houston and Dallas. He talks about how the burden to come up with solutions to police problems seems to lie on the citizens, not political officials. He discusses the “short-term memory elected officials and bureaucrats” and the “long-term memory of the community” and how to reconcile that. He talks about despair and refusal to take responsibility. He also talks about community police relations. He concludes by expanding on other problems he sees with police community relations including charging fees and criminalizing poverty. In Video 3, he talks briefly about his mom and what fighting for freedom looks like and means. This interview took place on July 20, 2011 at Rudolph Williams’ home in Austin, Travis County, Texas.