On May 6, the Austin City Council will consider a resolution to authorize starting the next police cadet class. The city manager outlined the steps to restart the training academy in a blueprint adopted last month. A contract amendment with Kroll Associates Inc. to evaluate the training academy is also on the council agenda next week.
In response to city council direction and community concerns, the Austin Police Department has overhauled recruiting and training. Restarting cadet classes is the best opportunity to change police culture and lessen the staffing strain impacting patrol response and cuts in specialized units. In addition to the 150 police positions cut last year by the city council, the department will have an estimated 126 more vacancies by the end of April.
Last week, the City-Community Reimagining Public Safety Task Force presented recommendations to the Austin City Council. A summary is available here. The task force was comprised of fifteen social justice groups and the Greater Austin Crime Commission. Much of the commendable work by the task force will be overshadowed by reckless recommendations that put the community at risk, including additional police defunding.
At the last meeting on April 15, the task force voted to remove the Greater Austin Crime Commission due to its support for the city manager’s training academy blueprint and council action to restart cadet classes.
Last Thursday, the Austin City Council moved emergency communications from the police department as part of “reimagining public safety.” Other functions “decoupled” from the police department include alarm administration, facility maintenance, finance, human resources, and public information.
The Texas Legislature adjourns May 31. Public safety legislation continues to move through the process. Bail reform (HB 20) and a statewide homeless camping ban (HB 1925) will be debated on the House floor this week.
The Chief’s Monthly Report for March shows increases in murder (27 percent), aggravated assault (12 percent), auto theft (12 percent) and robbery (3 percent). Several crime categories have decreased, such as kidnapping (-18 percent) and shoplifting (-29 percent).
P.S. Early voting for the May Special Election ends tomorrow, April 27. Election day is May 1. There are eight propositions on the ballot in Austin.