Council discusses adding APD personnel during budget work session

Wednesday's City Council budget work session began with the Mayor giving kudos to Austin Police for doing a good job keeping the city safe.
   
Chief Art Acevedo did point out there is a 7% increase in violent crime this year.
   
"The question is 'Is that an anomaly this year?  Or is that an indication of things to come?" Acevedo said.

Acevedo says last year there was an increase in traffic fatalities and he says so far this year that's proven to have been an anomaly.
   
Then the discussion moved to the budget.
   
Austin Police originally wanted 101 new positions.  The City Manager is proposing just 33 -- both sworn officers and non-sworn civilians to free up other officers to get back out on the streets.
   
Despite the fact there are 147 vacant sworn positions at the department right now, the Chief says between new officers being sworn in this October and incoming cadet classes, those vacancies will dry up quickly.
   
Council also heard from the Matrix Consulting Group.  They're advising council authorize 66 police officers and 8 corporal positions in order to achieve "community policing"

"There is a discussion we had today about moving even more toward a community policing model which is an emphasis on having the police know the community and the community know the police...that makes sense to me," Adler said.

With public safety already accounting for about 70% of the city's budget, Mayor Adler says the question surrounding the Matrix report is..."how do we get there?"

"The report is good and it's valuable and it points us in a direction and we need to move in that direction.  But what the report does not tell us is you how you actually implement that," Adler said.

Council Member Don Zimmerman says Council is not giving APD concrete performance objectives.  So he's afraid council will end up spending more money and accomplishing nothing.

"Here's our expectations.  We want you to solve 50%, 80% of the property crimes for instance.  These are your measurable metrics.  But instead, APD and then the report from the consultant lists these ridiculously non-measurable emotional and esoteric things like 'fear of crime.'  It's impossible to measure the 'fear of crime' and yet that's set out as if that's an objective of community policing," Zimmerman said.

Austin Police told Fox 7 earlier in the week, Matrix is also recommending some civilian staff be hired bringing the total of added positions up to around the same amount APD wanted in the first place.
   
The budget discussions will continue.  Mayor Adler says Council has 3 weeks to come to a consensus on the budget.

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