The City-Community Task Force to “reimagine” public safety has met three times for more than seven hours and has yet to discuss any of the Austin Police Department programs and services under consideration to be cut or moved. The task force is scheduled to meet again this week to consider how to organize and structure its work.
What is the City-Community Task Force, and who is represented? The Austin City Council cut $21 million from the police budget last month. A City-Community Task Force will evaluate an additional $129 million in potential cuts to the police budget. This “transition” budget includes $79 million to “decouple” existing functions and another $49 million to “reimagine” public safety by eliminating or moving additional police services.
More than a dozen social justice groups and the Greater Austin Crime Commission are represented on the task force. The Austin Police Department is not included because some task force members refused to participate if Chief Brian Manley and the police department were involved.
What’s at stake? The task force will make recommendations about further police budget cuts to the Austin City Council by March 2021. The city council already cut $21 million and 150 police positions. Cadet classes have been canceled through next year. Several specialized police units may be cut entirely, such as Executive Protection, Parks, and Street Gangs. Others will be substantially reduced, including District Representatives, DWI, and Major Crimes. Investigations will suffer, and patrol response will be affected.
This fall, the Crime Commission and a coalition of business and community groups will urge the city council to make mid-year budget and policy changes:
- Restart police cadet classes.
- Restore police positions.
- Resume police staffing plan implementation.
- Carefully consider additional cuts to police programs and services.
- Promote alternative responses to improve outcomes and reduce police workload (for example, homelessness and mental health calls).
What can you do?
- Sign up for Reimagining Public Safety updates from the City of Austin.
- Call and email the mayor and city council. Urge them to restart cadet classes and carefully consider additional cuts to police programs and services.
- Encourage your family and friends to join the Neighborhood Network.
- Host a virtual Neighborhood Network meeting or city council candidate forum. Contact us for suggestions.
- Register to vote. The deadline is October 5, and early voting begins October 13.
- Learn more. Download the Crime in Austin and Chief’s Monthly Report that detail public safety trends.
Please join the Greater Austin Crime Commission this Friday, September 11, at 8:00 a.m. for the 19th Annual 9/11 Memorial Honoring Central Texas First Responders. The featured speaker is Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, USA (Ret). Register here for a Zoom link.
P.S. Support the Neighborhood Network. Your tax-deductible donation will help us fight for public safety.