AUSTIN, Texas - To accommodate budget cuts made by the Austin City Council and Mayor Steve Adler, the Austin Police Department plans to move 95 officers from specialized units to patrol, according to an internal department document given to FOX 7 Austin.
“This is not meant to imply that your work was not important to our community. We’re just in a position where we’re having to make tough positions.” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told officers in an unlisted Youtube video shared with the department Thursday.
Earlier this month, council voted to cut up to $150 million from the department, about 34 percent of its budget. More than $20 million -- previously dedicated to overtime and cadet classes was cut immediately.
In the Youtube video, Manley explained that the budget “included reduction of 150 positions to the Austin Police Department along with significant reductions to our overtime budget -- and although we’re fortunate that those positions being cut are currently vacant, they will still be greatly impactful to our organization.”
Manley said with the reductions to the department's overtime budget, they will be unable to use backfill overtime in 2021. Saying, “that necessitated the need to actually move officers back into patrol.”
Under the department's current plan a unit in charge of patrolling city parks will be dissolved, as will the street gangs unit and an area task force.
Municipal court and executive security units will be dissolved. Those roles will be filled by private security.
“We do recognize that behind each of these, again, positions, is an officer who worked hard to get to that position. You were trained specially for that position,” he said.
SOAR, the Sex Offender Apprehension and Registration unit will lose one of its three officers, leaving the unit with a single two-person team.
The single officers assigned to the housing authority and organized crime narcotics conspiracy units will be removed.
DWI officers will be reduced by 50 percent, as will district representatives who are in charge of building community relationships.
Career criminals, major crimes, property crimes task force, criminal interdiction, commercial vehicle enforcement units will all be reduced. Crisis intervention will lose one officer, but one detective will be added.
The Metro Tactical Teams will each lose three of their eleven officers, leaving them with teams of eight.
Manley said officers will be selected for removal based on seniority in their units.
"When you have less people out enforcing the laws that are on the books and dealing with crime, you're going to have more crime, and crime is going to tick up. It is going to tick up badly. You're going to see more people killed, whether it be homicides or traffic fatalities." said retired Austin Police Department SPO Dennis Farris.
Friday, Governor Greg Abbott tweeted “It appears to be open season for Gangs, Organized Crime and Drunk Drivers in Austin. Austin’s defund police budget took an ax to these units. Texas won’t take it. If we have to, the state will take over law and order in Austin.”
Austin City Council Member Kathy Tovo told FOX 7 Austin, “Our community is safe, it will continue to be safe and it will, you know, we are as a council committed to safety for all, and I know our police department is as well. The plan that Chief Manley has drafted is just that, it’s a draft proposal.”
Tovo said she would be having conversations about “why these changes would be suggested when again no personnel have been reduced.” When asked about retirements, cut cadet classes, and reduced overtime, Tovo pointed to Mayor Steve Adler's budget amendment that she and other council members co-sponsored. She says it could allow a cadet class “or two” to pass.
Tovo says the final staffing plan will much different than the current plan. Saying the council's goal was to divert appropriate calls to services like EMS and integral care. Services council voted to increase funding for.
“Our city will be safer and better if we can move forward to rethink public safety in broader terms.” Mayor Steve Adler told FOX 7 Austin.
Like Tovo, Adler stressed that the plan is not finalized.