Neighborhood Network

May 24, 2021

Dear Neighbor,

The Austin Police Department faces a staffing crisis. Austin needs to fill vacancies and then adopt a new staffing model.

What’s happening? The police department has 132 vacancies with at least seven more separations planned by the end of next month, on top of the 150 positions and cadet classes cut by the Austin City Council last year. Attrition rates continue to outpace projections.

Patrol response to emergency calls is the police department’s top priority, which means more temporary cuts to specialized units are necessary. Eighty-nine officers were reallocated earlier this year. Thirty-three more officers will be moved to patrol from Auto Theft, DWI, and Motors on June 1. Forty-two officers from Lake Patrol, Motors, and Recruiting will be reassigned on August 1.

What’s the solution? Ramping up police recruiting and training. The 144th academy class that begins next month is the first to start in more than a year. The cadets will not graduate until late January 2022. By that time, there will be an estimated 120 additional vacancies. The Austin City Council has not authorized any additional cadet classes.

In the past nine years, three staffing studies recommended adding more officer positions based on call volume and investigation workload. The previous methodology of cops-per-thousand was easy math, but a crude metric. Six years ago, the police department and the Greater Austin Crime Commission advocated for a staffing model based on a workload analysis and community engagement time.

This summer, the Greater Austin Crime Commission will work with the Austin Police Department and business and community groups to recommend a new staffing model. The plan will use updated call volume data and factor in alternative responses. The Neighborhood Network will sponsor public safety forums to discuss the model. If you would like to host a neighborhood forum, please contact us via email or call 512-482-8107.

In response to the passage of Proposition B earlier this month, phased implementation of the camping ordinances has begun. While criticism of the approach is understandable, enforcement options for the police department are limited. Last week, city staff released a list of forty-five prospective sanctioned camping sites, provoking concerned responses from city council members and the community. The Texas Legislature also passed HB 1925, which bans camping in public spaces statewide, including parks. If signed by the governor, the bill takes effect on September 1.

The latest Chief’s Monthly Report shows murder (50 percent), aggravated assault (16 percent), and burglary (4 percent) increased through April 2021 compared to the same period last year. Some less serious crimes were down over the same period. When considering this data, remember that crimes are not recorded when there are no units available to respond.

Best,

Corby

P.S. The City of Austin is searching for the next police chief. Make your voice heard by completing the community questionnaire here.