Gun violence in Austin increased by 47 percent in 2020, according to a report released last week by the Austin Police Department. There was a 69 percent spike in non-family aggravated assaults involving firearms, which is an indicator of violent crime trends. Gun violence in Austin is up 124 percent since 2015.
Two weeks ago, the Austin City Council approved a resolution that restarts police cadet classes no later than June 7. As part of the resolution, the police department and city staff will complete a “blueprint” and outside consultant recommendations before the training academy begins.
This vote is an important step for the community. Mayor Steve Adler and council members Alison Alter, Paige Ellis, Mackenzie Kelly, Ann Kitchen, Leslie Pool, Sabino (Pio) Renteria, and Kathie Tovo voted for the resolution. Council Member Gregorio (Greg) Casar voted against the resolution to restart cadet classes. Council Member Vanessa Fuentes and Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison abstained.
What’s next? The Austin Police Department and city staff will implement steps outlined in the city manager’s Reimagined Police Cadet Academy Blueprint. The City Council will consider a budget amendment based on the manager’s certification that the blueprint requirements have or will be met before starting the next cadet class.
The Austin City Council unanimously confirmed the city manager’s appointment of Joseph Chacon as interim police chief. He is a twenty-two-year veteran of the Austin Police Department, most recently serving as an assistant chief responsible for the Central Bureau, including downtown, special events, parks and lakes, and special operations. In a memo to the city council, the city manager outlined the search process for a permanent police chief, which is expected to conclude by August.
The City-Community Reimagining Public Safety Task Force has two more scheduled meetings, tonight and April 15, starting at 5:30 p.m. The meetings are live-streamed via Facebook and Zoom. A virtual community listening session will be held this Saturday, April 10, beginning at 10:30 a.m.
P.S. With fifty-three days left in the 87th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature, public safety issues are a priority for state lawmakers. Next week’s Neighborhood Network update will cover what’s happening at the State Capitol.