AUSTIN, Texas — Need a police officer in Austin? Don’t look for a one unless you have a real emergency. Austin Police Department will discontinue responding in person to non-emergency calls beginning next week amid severe staffing shortages in the department.
Under this policy, unless you’ve got an “emergency” crime in progress or something traumatic, don’t expect police to respond for any form of “public service.”
Austin residents are being told to use iReportAustin.com or call 311 if they need to file a non-emergency crime report, Fox News reported.
A police source told Law Officer that you can expect two things to happen.
“First, people will embellish their circumstances in order to get a police response,” he said. “Other people will not call when they have a legitimate emergency since they think we will not respond. It’s a horrific scenario. … and quite frankly, city hall should be embarrassed since they’ve authored this untenable mess, but they are not. Many of them are oblivious to the real world.”
Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday told Fox News that APD has gone nearly two years without a police academy and simply does not have a sufficient number of patrol officers to respond to non-emergency calls.
“Probably about 95% of the time our shifts don’t meet minimum staffing … and that is the reason they’ve started cutting back on what types of calls are answered,” Casaday said.
“It’s not optimal. It’s not providing a quality service to the community,” Casaday said. “But the community also needs to understand that we’re under a dire staffing crisis.”
In a knee jerk reaction to the George Floyd death, the Austin City Council voted to defund APD in August 2020 to the tune of $150 million, or the equivalent of 34 percent of the overall police budget, Law Officer reported. They “reinvested” it into other areas of public service.
The department was partially refunded earlier this year, but not all of the units that were cut came back and the funding has yet to kick in, according to Fox. Hence, the remaining officers have been spread thin.
Mackenzie Kelly, a councilmember of Austin’s District 6, has blamed the staffing crisis on “the previous council’s disastrous actions to reimagine public safety.”
“The officers today are overworked and continue to be short-staffed which leads to increased response times across the city. We need to add additional funding to immediately correct this failure for the safety of our city,” she said.
Charles Wilkison, Executive Director of Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, warned that without more police funding, the staffing crisis will get worse.
“The whimsical reimagining of the police department has normalized violence and murder in a once safe and admired city,” he said.
An APD spokesperson told Fox News that civilian personnel may still respond to serve the needs of citizens. For instance, a crime scene technician can still be sent to collect evidence.
She said the department, “regularly reviews response policies and procedures to ensure APD prioritizes calls with an immediate threat to life or property over non-emergency calls for service.”
“As a result of a recent review of APD’s patrol COVID mitigation protocols initiated in May 2020, recent staffing challenges and aligning with the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force patrol response recommendations, APD will change call routing and response for non-emergency calls for service effective October 1, 2021,” she said.
People should continue calling 911 for emergency calls when there is a threat to life or property, APD said.
Meanwhile, homicides in Austin are up 71% from just three years ago, and there are still three months remaining in the year, Law Officer recently reported. Furthermore, this is occurring in Travis County where the local district attorney has been accused of “waging war” against police officers.
All in all, the city with a motto that says, “Keep Austin Weird” should probably try to keep it safe, too.