Defunding the police may have sounded like a good idea to city officials in Austin, Texas, but the consequences have been nothing short of disastrous. Crime is up – as in way up – and now residents are being warned not to call 911 unless it’s absolutely necessary.
The severe staffing shortage directly resulted from Austin City Council’s decision to cut $150 million from the police department budget last year. Crime statistics are alarming in Austin: As of April of 2021, the murder rate is up 200%, aggravated assaults 36%, and car theft has risen by about 77%. These figures, compiled by Austin’s KVUE-TV, are year-to-date compared to the same period in 2017.
Don’t Call Us
To parse out its workforce, the Austin Police Department asks residents to dial 311 instead of 911 if they are dealing with a non-life-threatening emergency. This change comes on the heels of a warning by the Harris County Sheriff’s Deputies Organization in Houston, which told residents “that if they were “robbed, raped, or shot,” to “hold their breath and pray” because they might not have the personnel to respond.
During a mid-week news conference, interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon told reporters dialing 311 may become the new normal. On Austin’s public radio station, KUT, Chacon elaborated: “Right now, it’s a necessary measure, but I can tell you in the future, as we refill our officer ranks, does it make sense to continue to send a sworn officer to go and essentially just take a report when I have more pressing and urgent needs? We may keep the model.”
The use of 311 would include situations like reporting the attempted robbery of property, a home, or a vehicle, animal service issues, car crashes without injury, verbal disputes, and prostitution.
One longtime Austin resident told Liberty Nation, “I hate these people [the city council]. They know they’re putting people in danger, and they don’t care because it won’t affect them.” Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday reports a dire shortage of new officers because the city no longer has a police academy. “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 told Texas news outlet The Center Square.
While bringing new officers into the APD fold has been an issue, keeping the current ones on the force is turning out to be another serious problem. Liberty Nation’s Socio-political Correspondent and Austin resident Jeff Charles explains:
“This situation is happening because the idiots on our city council thought it would be a good idea to defund and demonize the police. This has led to a ridiculous number of officers resigning from APD. Now, there are even fewer law enforcement officials patrolling the streets. The department is understaffed, and crime is on the rise at a disturbing clip. Unless something is done about it, it will likely be worse in 2022.”
Capital city news outlets maintain the APD “has been losing 15 to 20 officers a month, with many quitting and retiring and not enough new recruits to replace them. The department has projected 235 vacancies by May 2022, and 340 vacancies by May 2023.”
A couple of citizen-led initiatives are underway to get things back in order. A petition outlining a new public safety law has enough signatures and will be placed on the November ballot. One of the central tenets of the ballot question is to force the city council to maintain national officer to resident ratios. The “Safe City Standard” currently requires two policemen for every 1,000 citizens.
In addition, the Texas state legislature took the bull by the horns and passed a new law that prohibits the defunding of police by local city councils. The new regulation took effect on September 1 and will block state money “from going to local governments that defund their police departments.”
Thankfully, the city of Austin has finally resumed officer-cadet classes, but, of course, it will take some time before these men and women are ready to hit the streets. While police funds have all but dried up, The Center Square reports, “The city is paying more than $10,000 per day, with a maximum of $580,000 per year, to Joyce James Consulting to provide an ‘anti-racism’ Critical Race Theory-based curriculum for a ‘reimagining public safety campaign.’”
~ Read more from Leesa K. Donner.