Austin police will go before city council Wednesday to fight for an additional 101 positions. A consulting group says the department needs at least that many but the city manager is recommending 33. The department and consultants say community engagement will suffer without the additional support.
The intersection of IH-35 and Rundberg Lane now has a mix of brick and stone. Planters line the median and curb lines to give the intersection a clean, fresh look.
"You help the area look safer it will start to feel safer and at the end of the day it actually is safer,” said Officer Rafael Kianes.
It's another step to further keep out the criminal element that Rafael Kianes and other officers have worked so hard to rid the area of under the Restore Rundberg Project.
Those who work and live in the area say they are finally feeling safe.
People like grocery store employee Marcos Vazquez know Kianes by name. Walking beat officers frequently check in with business owners and residents to understand any crime problems they may have and come up with solutions.
This is the definition of community policing. As a district representative, Kaines is fortunate he can get to know the people he serves as he does not have to jump from call to call like a patrol officer.
"If you had a bit more time you don't feel like you're just putting a band-aid on something. You can actually help,” said Kianes.
For the second year in a row, the department will ask the city to approve enough funding in the budget to allow for the better execution of a community policing concept. That means 101 new positions.
A consulting group appointed by council studied APD's community policing efforts for the past year and recently released its results. It found that staffing levels were insufficient and community engagement suffered at the patrol level. The group recommended the department hire a mix of 102 civilian and sworn personnel.
You can read the full report here.
For Assistant Chief Brian Manley it was validation and offered encouragement going into the budget talks. The city manager is currently recommending the department hire a mere 33 positions.
"I think the council will take a hard look at this. This is a study that council requested that we have done and so I believe it's a study they wanted to see and I think they will pay attention to it during their budget discussions and realize that we are a very lean department right now,” said Manley.
Why the critical need for more community interaction? Manley answered with what a young activist told him at a race relations forum.
"He summed it up by saying if he has a police officer show up at 3 o'clock in the morning at his house he wants to have a relationship with that officer. He wants to know who that officer is,” said Manley. "The only way we can get to that point is if we have officers with enough community engagement time where they're not running from call to call."
Should the police department's request of 101 positions be approved, Manley says the city would notice a significant increase in service by November of next year.
The department will graduate 110 cadets this fall. And with the budget approval would graduate another 110 in the spring.