Police union warns of critical staffing levels during busy weekend

With multiple big events this weekend like the Austin City Limits Music Festival and the Texas Longhorns vs. Iowa State game, the Austin Police Association says the police department is severely understaffed.

"It's the largest festival I've ever been to," ACL attendee Melissa Falcone said. "So far it's been really fun and safe, and I think everyone's kind of doing their part to make it a fun and safe experience."

The Austin Police Association says there are over 280 unfilled positions, along with 150 that were cut.

"We are not able to recruit and hire enough people to offset the average of 15 officers who leave our department each month," APA president Thomas Villareal said in an emailed response.

He says with the number of officers stretched thin, big events plus regular calls creates a safety issue. Nearly half of patrols are under minimum staffing levels.

Villareal says he fears timely responses will suffer.

"If officers are tied up on another priority call, our ability to respond in a timely manner to a new priority call is affected. This is exacerbated with our current staffing issues," he said.

The Greater Austin Crime Commission says the department should have 882 patrol officers. They only have 548.

"Some officers are working a tremendous amount of overtime to help keep the City and the citizens safe. Some are burned out and have started working less and less. The City of Austin has a tremendous group of women and men who work to keep them safe. We just need to prioritize getting more of them here and trained so we can ease the burden on our Officers," Villareal said.

"It definitely concerns me. I think that this festival is definitely major, and we want to make sure we have all of our public security and safety officers in place, so everyone can have a safe and fun experience," Falcone said.

"I've never had an issue with safety at ACL. We've been many times. People are drinking, but everyone's here to have a good time," attendee Claudia Kulhea said.

"Safety's been the same for me as it has been every year," attendee Kris Potrafka said.

"There cannot be a stampede here. It's big so you can head to the mountains," attendee Juan Rodriguez Ramos said.

"Our Recruiting Unit is doing the best that they can. They are advocating for common sense changes to bring in a diverse group of recruits, but people are paying attention and they see the challenges that our Officers face in Austin and are choosing to go to other jobs," Villareal said.