The Austin City Council will start adopting a budget Wednesday.
That’s seventy-two hours left to make your voice heard and stand for public safety.
We can’t afford to cut cops, cancel cadet classes, and reduce overtime.
A majority of Austin voters support reform, but not cutting cops when crime is increasing and response times are slower.
Ask co-workers, employees, family, and friends to call and email the mayor and council. Sign up to speak at the virtual city council meeting (Item 1) on Wednesday. The registration deadline is Monday at 5:00 p.m., and speakers are limited to one minute.
In addition to cutting 100 police positions, some council members have proposed:
- Cutting another 80 police positions. (This would leave Austin with fewer officers than it had in 2014 with 100,000 fewer residents.)
- Cutting three cadet classes through FY21.
- Cutting overtime by as much as $5.8 million. (That’s equivalent to 46 full-time officer positions.)
- Moving $79 million in public safety functions from the police department, including the 911 Emergency Communications Division, Forensic Science Bureau, and Victim Services Division.
Here’s what will happen:
- Cutting 180 police positions will cause cuts in divisions and units, most likely the District Representatives Program, Highway Response Team, Organized Crime Division, and Park Patrol Unit.
- Cutting three cadet classes will worsen the police staffing shortage. It could take years to recover. Austin wouldn’t be able to start even a modified academy until October 2021 that graduates in February 2022.
- Cutting overtime will strain the police chief’s ability to make operational decisions, particularly in situations like the serial bombing or massive demonstrations and protests. APD’s capability to perform special initiatives based on neighborhood crime trends would be severely limited.
- Moving functions out of the police department without understanding the consequences could result in legal challenges and operational problems. Input from the community and experts should be considered.
Demands to cut cops or $100 million are arbitrary and risky. Neither research nor reality justifies these demands.
- Austin leads the 15 largest US cities this year in percentage increase in homicides and third in robberies.
- In the first half of this year, murder (64%), auto theft (30%), building theft (24%), robbery (16%), aggravated assault (14%), and burglaries (8%) have increased.]
- Emergency response times are slower (28% since 2011).
- Aggravated assaults (7%), auto thefts (21%), individual robberies (6%), non-residential burglaries (14%), and traffic fatalities (88) were up last year. (Learn more in the Crime in Austin report.)
- Violent crime increased significantly downtown (11%) and in the entertainment district (52%) last year.
- Austin dropped from 11th to 18th safest city for property crimes.
What can you do?
- Speak at the virtual city council meeting (Item 1) on Wednesday, August 12. The deadline to sign up is tomorrow (Monday) at 5:00 p.m. Instructions are available here. Residents may speak for one minute and can participate in person at Palmer Events Center or via telephone.
- Use these links to call and email the mayor and city council. Let the community decide how to “reimagine” public safety. Don’t cut cops, cancel cadet classes, or reduce overtime.
The Greater Austin Crime Commission supports the city manager’s public safety “reimagining process” and proposals to fund alternative responses to domestic violence and mental health calls, including additional EMS Community Health paramedics.
Using the police budget as a proxy war is dangerous. Symbolic acts to cut police officers do not solve inequity, poverty, and racism. Making the community less safe does not fix failures in affordable housing, education, and public health.
P.S. Ask your family and friends to join the Neighborhood Network and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.