The Civil Rights Unit’s primary responsibility is the criminal investigation and, when appropriate, the prosecution of all cases involving a law enforcement officer’s use of force or deadly force against an individual and cases involving the death of an individual while in law enforcement custody. When she took office in January 2017, District Attorney Moore restructured the former “Critical Incident Unit,” removing it from the supervision of our Strategic Prosecutions Division and, to ensure its prosecutorial independence, made it a separate unit directly answerable to the District Attorney. In order to reflect her vision of expanding the Unit’s core responsibility beyond solely investigating and prosecuting officer-involved use of force cases to matters of greater immediate and local concern, District Attorney renamed the unit the Civil Rights Unit.

District Attorney Moore has introduced several key innovations we believe will make the Civil Rights Unit more effective and more reflective of this community’s concerns. One of District Attorney Moore’s key innovations is the decision to request a District Judge to empanel a special grand jury reserved to hear only cases presented to it by the Civil Rights Unit. The use of a special grand jury ensures that the grand jury will have sufficient time to devote proper attention to the cases the Civil Rights Unit will be handling. The use of a special grand jury also allows grand jurors the ability to develop the expertise needed to fully and fairly discharge their duties when such cases are presented to it.

A related change is District Attorney Moore’s decision to discontinue the practice of presenting every officer-involved shooting to a grand jury. Instead, the Civil Rights Unit will only present cases to the special grand jury that are truly deserving of grand jury consideration; for instance, cases for which there may be a need for further investigation or for which there is good reason to believe that a crime has occurred. In cases in which there is not a presentation to the special grand jury, District Attorney Moore will issue and publish declination letters summarizing the facts of a particular instance of an officer’s use of deadly force, the results of the criminal investigation, and a legal analysis forming the basis for the decision not to seek a special grand jury indictment.

Another key innovation involves outreach to surviving family members of those who have lost a relative in an officer-involved shooting instance. Whether the Office has sought an indictment or decided not to seek a grand jury indictment, the Civil Rights Unit provides family members of those killed, the opportunity to review all of the investigative facts and evidence. The Unit also provides access to information related to counseling and victim-services.

In order to ensure that local community residents are able to have a direct line of communication with the Civil Rights Unit and our Office, District Attorney Moore has convened an Advisory Council comprised of a diverse group of Travis County citizens with whom she and the Civil Rights Unit will meet with on a quarterly basis to discuss matters related to the community’s confidence in the District Attorney’s fair administration of justice—matters that include, but are not limited to, officer use of force.

In an effort to foster greater transparency and community feedback, the Civil Rights Unit has begun publishing its operating procedures and policies on the Civil Rights Unit’s webpage. The webpage will also include published declination letters, press releases and statements, calendared events, and helpful links related to the Civil Rights Unit’s Scope of Work and Mission Statement.

Declination Letters

Standard Operating Procedures