AUSTIN, Texas - While the city budget is taking away from the police department, some groups are saying it’s still not enough while others worry about the cuts.
$11.3 million is how much Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk is proposing to be reduced from APD’s budget for Fiscal Year 2020-2021.
“$11 million is a no, it’s not something that should be praised, it’s not something like a small victory we have a really long way to go to get to some substantial change in the city,” said Austin Justice Coalition executive director Chas Moore. “Maybe I was just more hopeful thinking coming out the gate maybe we would get $30 million. I don’t know why I thought that but $11 million is laughable, I don’t even know what to say to that."
According to the proposed budget, the $11.3 million will then be reallocated to alternative public safety strategies and public health services, including mental health, first response, and family violence programs. Additional funds are earmarked for the new Civil Rights Office, the Equity Office, and the Office of Police Oversight.
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Moore says they’ve been pushing this idea for the past few months and are hopeful the city will reinvest more from the police budget for these programs. “Why do we assume cops have to be the public safety thing exclusively. Why are we sending cops to mental health calls, why are we sending cops to fender benders, maybe someone else can go to that if they really need to but why is an armed cop going to a fender bender,” said Moore.
On top of the reduction in APD’s budget, they will be eliminating the 100 vacant sworn police positions and delaying cadet classes in the process. The Austin Police Association feels this is not the right move.
“Of course we are disappointed, we talked about adding 30 bodies this year instead we are taking away a hundred. There was a reason the city council agreed to add those 30 because they did studies and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on those studies to show them we are not growing with the city,” said APD president Ken Casaday.
The budget is far from being finalized, Austin City Council plans to discuss the budget in their upcoming meetings. Councilmember Greg Casar says he is also pushing for $100 million from APD's budget to be reinvested.