AUSTIN, Texas - After more than a week of protests in the city following the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Mike Ramos in Austin, the Austin City Council added three items to Thursday's agenda.
On Thursday the Austin City Council is set to vote on a variety of police reform items, including cutting funding from the department. After more than a week of protests in the city following the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Mike Ramos in Austin, the council added three items to Thursday's agenda.
“These are not problems that can be fixed overnight, but the backlog is so big we can kick this journey off with a flurry of activity.” said Councilmember Natasha Harper Madison, District 1, adding “our budget is a moral document that reflects our common priorities.”
Agenda item 50 calls for zero racial disparities in “certain metrics.” Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza explained the resolution would set a goal of “zero racial disparities in traffic stops, zero racial disparities in arrests and tickets from traffic stops, zero use of force incidents and zero officer-involved deaths.”
Item number 95 calls for council to pass a resolution relating to the police department's use of force, upcoming cadet class munitions -- like bean bags, equipment, technology, and tactics.
“I for one don’t feel that overfunding a militarized police force while neighborhoods don’t have sidewalks, families sit in the shadow of the digital divide is something our community wants,” stated Harper-Madison.
When asked what council would like the police department to use for crowd control, if it plans to take away funding for equipment like bean bags and tear gas, Councilmember Greg Casar, District 4, responded, “the best way to make sure that everyone is safe is to make sure that no one is escalating on any side.”
Charley Wilkison, executive director of CLEAT, the largest police union in Texas, said that it is unrealistic.
“If honest activists are telling us all over America that their message has been co-opted by people who want to do the community harm, then do you think that the police officers have another option?" Wilkison said. "So the other option is to use lethal force or let them get out of the way and let them burn your house, your business, and the entire City of Austin.”
Number 96, the final added item, calls for direction on the fiscal year 2020-2021 budget, and also calls to create reporting requirements for APD general orders. This comes as the Austin Justice Coalition calls on the council to slash the department's funding, by at least a hundred million dollars. On a call Monday, most council members appeared in favor of the idea.
“I’m willing to make that pledge,” said Garza.
The Austin Police Association issued a statement requesting council delay action on the three resolutions. The union pointed out that there are still two months left until the budget needs to be finalized -- saying the conversation surrounding the potential impact of the resolutions, needs to be more expansive.
“Anytime you want us to stop, all you gotta do is do it. Defund the police department. Crime will rise, you won’t have the police to blame anymore,” said Wilkison.