AUSTIN, Texas - Austin Police welcomed their 143rd cadet class to the police force Friday. The new group of 42 men and women will be the last the department sees for a while because of city budget cuts.
Chief Brian Manley said he’s grateful, these new cadets will help alleviate a staffing shortage the department is experiencing. On average APD loses about seven officers a month, now it’s closer to 15.
The 143rd class was certainly put through the wringer. The academy lasted longer than most because of the pandemic. The class was even quarantined for a period because of an outbreak. Chief Manley describes the group as determined, diverse, and eager to be part of change.
“The Austin Police Department remains here for you to serve you and even in these difficult times we still have men and women that want to join this profession and want to serve in the Austin Police Department,” said Manley. “These 42 men and women that we will graduate from here today are not only greatly needed but I know will do great things for our community.”
The curriculum was also different for the cadets as well. Because of COVID-19 some training was done online. Chief Manley said the training also included hearing from members of the community on cultural competency and community engagement.
Aside from the pandemic, the cadet class also witnessed the civil unrest unfolding across the nation over the summer. Officer Carolina Benavidez was recruited from NYPD, pleased to be in Austin, unsettled with the toll protests took on the city.
“It was really tough for law-enforcement and the community,” Benavidez said. “It was really hard to see how the city was going through it but it definitely motivated not only me but the rest of my class to push harder and to really meet that standard the community wants.”
Change is the direction APD, the city and the newly sworn officers hope to see. Kayla Whalen joined to help change the way people see police officers.
“Austin has probably the best community as a whole,” said Whalen. “I wanted to help make the perception of a police officer more encouraging and kind, versus negative.”