AUSTIN, Texas - The Austin Police Association is calling for a delay of Austin City Council's vote to defund the Austin Police Department.
Austin City Council is set to consider and vote on resolutions filed by council members Greg Casar, Delia Garza and Natasha Harper-Madison during Thursday's meeting. APA says in a release that if passed, the resolutions, particularly Casar's Item 95 and Harper-Madison's Item 96, could cut over 190 police positions from the next city budget and halt the next police cadet class indefinitely.
The APA says that they condemn the actions of Derek Chauvin and his fellow officers in the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd. Chauvin, a veteran police officer, was seen putting his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck as he repeatedly said he could not breathe.
Chauvin and the three other officers at the scene were fired just one day after Floyd’s death. The three officers, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao have since been charged with aiding and abetting.
Chauvin, 44, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
"Institutional racism must be eliminated and police procedures must be reviewed with vital reforms enacted to prevent this from happening in our community," the APA said in a release. "We are committed to having a frank conversation about necessary reforms. We cannot; however, in the heat of this very tender moment, move to defund the good men and women in our police force who are working the longest hours of their careers and doing an admirable job protecting their community during the most tumultuous time in our lives."
Protesters have filled the streets of downtown for ten days now, protesting Floyd's death and the officer-involved shooting of Mike Ramos, who was killed by Austin police officer Christopher Taylor in April in Southeast Austin. Police were called to the scene because of a gun urgent call of a suspect holding a gun in the air.
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The shooting was filmed by several witnesses and a cell phone video shared with FOX 7 Austin shows Ramos with his hands up, showing his waist. He is standing on the driver's side of a car, telling police he is unarmed.
Travis County DA Margaret Moore announced last week that Ramos' case would be presented to a special grand jury.
"During the recent protests, our officers had fireworks, rocks, and bottles filled with unknown substances hurled at them along with many words of hate," claims the APA. "The bottles were especially distressing given that Molotov cocktails, though unsuccessfully lit, were made to hurl at police."
The APA says that in response, several officers fired bean bag rounds and foam batons, not rubber bullets, to stop it. These means of crowd control are "non-lethal," but can cause injury.
Two people were seriously injured by bean-bag rounds fired by APD. 16-year-old Brad Levi Ayala was struck in the head by a round fired by an Austin police officer on May 30. His brother Edwin Ayala tearfully told the council during their special meeting last week that his brother had been at work at Jersey Mike's Subs and was checking out what was going on when he was hit in the head.
Doctors told Edwin and his mother that Levi had a puncture in his head and a risk of internal bleeding that they didn't even know about until they got the teen into surgery. "We just didn't know...they started the surgery at 11, we didn't know, we thought he was going to die," Edwin said, crying. "... I was there with my mom, and we prayed all night."
He said the doctors thought it was a rubber bullet that struck Levi, so they left it in for hours. Once they performed the surgery, they determined it was actually a bean bag that struck Levi.
20-year-old college student Justin Howell was also hit in the head with a bean-bag round. Howell had been standing on the street and recording video on his phone when someone near him threw a water bottle at officers standing on the steps to APD headquarters. Later, that same person threw his backpack at officers, according to Chief Brian Manley, and an officer fired a round at them, which struck Howell.
Howell fell to the ground and hit his head. Protesters were told to bring him to the police so they could get him medical attention, but officers allegedly fired more rounds at them as they attempted to carry Howell to the officers.
"We are eager to discuss our procedures and ensure the most effective methods of de-escalation and empathetic policing. That conversation is critical," said the APA. "But the consequences of quickly defunding our department, reversing a multi-years agreed-upon plan with the City to meet the needs of our growing area, would significantly lessen patrols in every neighborhood, including our marginalized communities, and reduce our ability to handle local child abuse, sex crime, domestic violence, and robbery/aggravated assault caseloads."
The APA is requesting the delay as there are still two months until the final city budget is adopted. "These big issues require a big conversation and the citizens of Austin need more than three business days to fully consider the impacts and consequences of these measures as well as several others that will improve our procedures to ensure a safer community of compassion and understanding," the union said.
The APA is calling for citizens to contact their city councilmember to make their voice heard ahead of the vote.