Austin motor units suspended, reassigned to patrol

Traffic has long been a thorn in the side of Texas’ capital city. That’s why the Austin Police Department relied on motorcycle cops to respond to crashes when Mopac or I-35 was bumper to bumper.

Retired Austin motors officer Brandon Bullock said when seconds count, waiting minutes for a patrol car can be deadly.

"I think motors probably saves countless lives because they can get to that scene much quicker and let responding units know what they need to come in to assist, to take care of the scene. When another officer might be four or five, 10, 15 minutes stuck in traffic trying to get there and motors is already there," said Bullock.

Motorcycle officers are often the ones enforcing traffic laws on major roadways in Austin.

A letter obtained by FOX 7 Austin from interim Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said as of August 1 all motor units will be suspended and reassigned to patrol. Chacon wrote, "Traffic enforcement will continue to be part of every patrol officer’s duties." Bullock said the department relied on motor officers to respond to crashes so that patrol could answer calls.

"I think you're going to see a huge uptick in accidents over the next year, and fatality accidents too, because people are going to feel a little bit more emboldened to drive a little more aggressive, to speed, to drive while intoxicated and that can't be anything helpful to the City of Austin," Bullock said.

Any potential uptick in intoxicated drivers is a major concern to the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Further complicating things, APD suspended the DWI enforcement unit in June.

"We want to keep Austin weird, but we also want to keep people safe at the end of the day. We really do rely on law enforcement across Central Texas to make sure that they're holding drivers accountable across the city," said Azeza Salama, spokesperson for MADD in Central Texas.

State legislators passed HB 1900 financially penalizing cities that cut funding to police departments, so Austin City Council will be forced to restore police funding to 2019 levels this August.

However, the Police Association said without running several cadet classes, officer vacancies will continue to be a problem. 

MADD in Central Texas offers 24-hour services for victims of drunk driving. Anyone in need of these services can call 1-877-ASK-MADD.

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