Austin Police “Defunded” – Plagued by Chaos and Slow Response
A member of the City Council in Austin, TX was put on hold for nearly 30 minutes Saturday night when she called the police to report a “street racing takeover.” The incident occurred late Saturday night at the intersection of South Lamar Boulevard and Barton Springs Road.
Crowds of people watched in disbelief as cars drifted across the street and drivers launched fireworks into the sky. At least one officer was injured and several police vehicles were damaged when the cops finally arrived to put a stop to the chaos.
“[I am] increasingly concerned about our police vacancies,” said Council member Mackenzie Kelly. “The possibility of a catastrophic cascading failure due to lack of support from our police department puts the city, its residents, and visitors at risk of danger.”
As reported by Fox News, the Austin Police Department (APD) has struggled for months to staff its emergency communications division and basic patrol teams.
In August 2022, APD was forced to pull more than 460 officers from specialized units like SWAT, Homicide, and Child Abuse to fill patrol vacancies. Several specialized units were disbanded and lowered minimum staffing requirements were announced.
“We are in a crisis right now,” said APD Assistant Chief Jerry Bauzon last summer when the department faced a deficit of more than 250 positions. “I think citywide and, again, nationwide, world, everyone that works in public safety is seeing the same human resource crisis as we’re experiencing…They’re leaving for other jobs because, again, of the stress and other reasons.”
In July 2022, the average hold time for 911 calls on a busy night in Austin was roughly 30 minutes. Data from October shows that roughly two-thirds of emergency calls were answered within 15 seconds (the national standard is 90%) and the average hold time for 911 calls was about two-and-one-half minutes.
This data is a direct result of Austin’s 2020 decision to slash police funding and cancel three police academy classes. The decision was made with support from then-Mayor Steve Adler (D) at the height of the “defund the police movement.”
While a majority of that funding has since been restored, the department has struggled to hire officers and find new recruits following an uptick in retirements and resignations stemming from the 2020 protests and resulting anti-police sentiment.
Making matters worse is Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza, who has indicted more than 12 APD officers for actions taken during the anti-police riots in 2020. Analysts say it will take between six and eight years for the department to catch up on staffing.
“You know, you’ve had a loved one that’s been shot or abused by a stranger or sexually abused by a family member, and you call that detective and they tell you he or she is not able to answer the phone,” laments Ken Casaday, President of the Austin Police Association. “Can they call back next week or the week after because they’re out answering 911 calls for the next two weeks. “
Despite the evidence that change is drastically needed in Austin, a majority of City Council members voted this week to extend the current one-year contract between the city and the Association.
“We can improve reasonable police oversight. Accountability is critical to maintain the bonds of trust between police and community,” said one of only two Council members who voted on a four-year contract backed by the Association. “But the simple fact is that we need more police officers in this city, patrolling our streets, downtown, and major events. We need more police responding to calls for service. We need more police to reinstate specialized units. This must be an urgent priority for the new mayor and the City Council.”
Austin’s newly-elected Mayor, Kirk Watson (D), has yet to comment on Saturday’s incident. Watson, a former State Senator who served as Austin’s Mayor from 1997 to 2001, defeated Texas State Rep. Celia Israel (D) in December 2022.
Austin police, 911 staffing levels questions after street racers take over major intersection, injure cop
‘We are in a crisis right now.’ APD Assistant Chief Jerry Bauzon speaks on patrol officer shortage
‘We need them desperately’: US police departments struggle with critical staffing shortages
Looks like the city got what it wanted, reduced police presence! Austin is becoming the San Francisco of Texas. Good luckl
What a shame. I visited Austin in the 1990’s. It was a great town and an awesome vacation! Lots of great music and fun. Darn shame it is in the shape it is in today!
And this is in Texas. I hope you yoyo’s suffer more and then maybe you will learn how to vote right.
WE HAVE TO MANY COMPANIES THAT ARE FOR ”DEFUND ” THE POLICE AND DEFUND COMMON SENSE. SO IF WE LOVE OUR COUNTRY”” WE NEED TO DEFUND THEM, LIKE BOYCOTT BIG TIME. AFTER ALL WHO ARE THESE WOKE AMERICA HATING BIG SHOTS??? NOT ANYBODY WE NEED.
ONCE AGAIN = HISTORY SPEAKS FOR ITSELF : ” WHEN EXCESSIVE FREEDOM DESTROYS ORDER – IT WILL BE THE PASSION FOR ORDER TO DESTROY FREEDOM ”
In addition quote from 2 millennia or so ago: “OH JUDGEMENT THOU HAST LOST THY REASON AND PAUSE WE MUST TILL IT COME BACK TO US ” —–
To ALL that’s has defunded our police hope karma comes back to haunt you!!!!
Austin is a cool place, like a liberal oasis in a sea of conservatism. I had family living there although I never visited.
They defunded the police in 2020; unknot those knickers, they didn’t drop all that much funding, it’s just a really bad term. Instead, they “reallocated” most of it to other areas of government. So, police forensics moves over here, something else moves over there. Really should be called “re-engineering.” Happens all the time in business, why not government.
As a business person in the Fortune 100, here’ how it happened to me. First, I am responsible for the P&L; the money. When something gets in my way, like an accounting problem and accounting takes too long, I hire accountants. At some point, I have more accountants than accounting, and someone wonders the efficiency or effectiveness of that. Next, we “re-engineer,” and my accounting guys go over there but we fire a couple because, in total, we had too many between the two organizations. Life is good again until something else gets in my way…. It’s the circle of life, budgeting, managing, and getting things done.
I have always favored and often said, outside the purview of mahogany row that change should be: evolution, not revolution. Smaller steps. The reason is when you have a lot of new things, radical change, you run a greater risk of breakage. Breakage is easy, fixing is hard. Against the young rising stars, I did not have much fortune with that line of thought. Then again, I consistently survived and they batted 500 at best, although the survivors moved ahead of me. Damn that pride :>)
Some of Austin’s “reallocations” look like stops or drops however. One area was cadet training which was reallocated to violence prevention, food access and abortion access programs. Bwhaaat could go wrong with that?
Between the drops and the magnitude of the change, Austin bit off more than it could chew. It’s not that the idea is necessarily bad, that may be, but they did the idea badly, that’s for certain.
IMO, that’s what happened in Austin. They went over the top in the grand experiment and they got burned.
At the time, Abbott said it was a mistake and that Texas Public Safety would bridge the gap. He failed to do that and did not get burned. He got the win-win for trying and then blaming someone else: Austin.
A reality fact check: In fiscal 2020-2021, the $434.5M budget was cut to $292.9M; however only $31.5M was cut, the remaining $121.7 million was a reserve fund intended to “decouple or reimagine” not policing aspects currently funded by police that might be better suited for other government organizations to manage. What could go wrong with that total lack-of-a-plan?
The cadet courses were not moved, they were cut. But cadets are not counted as police, they are civilians so went unnoticed.
Then, in the very next budget, 2021-2022, Austin restores the full budget, adds another $9M, but did not add additional budget to hire new officers. What could go wrong with that?
By the end of 2021 The Austin Police Department had 1,798 sworn officers on Jan. 1, 2020. By last week it had 1,514 cops currently able to work, with 200 vacancies and an additional 96 on long-term leave. Population grew, violent crimes grew, murders grew exponentially.
Austin suddenly discovered what Republicans also need to learn: it’s easier to destroy than to build. Austin needed to rebuild its police, fast, and they couldn’t. The department was shaken, morale was bad, funding inconsistent; it was a hard hole to dig out of, and one of their own makings. At this point, I don’t think even Tom Selleck could put Humpty Dumpty together overnight.
At the end of 2022, they were down about 50% or 50 people to respond to 911 calls; that’s a cataclysmic failure.
At the end of 2022, they were down about 14% or 249 sworn-staff police officers out of a budgeted 1,812. That’s bad, but not horrific.
Civilian staffing, which includes cadets, was down 20%, although I don’t know how many more cadets they expected over the 45 they had to fill those 249 sworn-staff positions.
Again, I support the concept of re-engineering for efficiency and effectiveness. And I don’t mean defund the police, I mean constantly re-engineer all parts of the public sector, but in reasonable increments, not wholesale bloody murder. And you need a expert with a scalpel for this work, not a blind butcher with an ax. Also, scope matters; you never bite off more than you can chew. You monitor, test, identify issues, and correct along the way. Austin did try to correct but it was too big a problem by then, the ax had fallen, the organization was gutted, demoralized, and broken. It was too little and too late so the proverbial hit the fan.
This is on the Democrats watch but does not mean re-engineering is a bust. Yet. Not a great sign though.