AUSTIN, Texas - For months, the Austin Justice Coalition and other advocacy groups have been calling on Austin City Council to defund The Austin Police Department by $100 million.
“I think significant divestment from the police department is called for and necessary. The $100 million cut is reflective of per capita spending on police circa 2014, not long ago and in an era of Austin's history that was just as safe as it is today,” said Chris Harris with Texas Appleseed.
The new budget proposal would take away $11 million from the department, much less than $100 million. But the decision is far from being made. The city council was originally supposed to vote on the city's full budget next week, but council member Natasha Harper-Madison wants to buy some time. On the city council message board she wrote:
"I recommend that council only authorizes half of the proposed APD budget in order to allow deputy city manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde and police monitor Farah Muscadin the time they need to properly evaluate and recommend timelines and logistics for an APD transition budget."
“I think having a six-month review process makes a lot of sense, but that also doesn't mean we shouldn't pursue immediate cuts to the budget now,” said Harris.
So that means we could not see a final APD budget until winter. But not all are in favor of cutting any police funding.
“I can't even bring the word defund to my lips when it comes to protecting children,” said Lisa Knapp, founder of Austin 20 and Nicole’s Place.
Knapp advocates for bringing justice to child sex traffickers.
“When staffing is pulled in other areas, our sex crimes detectives are pulled off of their cases and pulled out of focusing on these important cases protecting children and forced to go patrol. That doesn't make any sense,” she said.
She believes the APD needs adequate funding. The current proposal also eliminates a future cadet class.
“This is not okay. We do not have enough police officers to address the issue of sex trafficking in Austin, Texas. I'm not even going to get into if your house gets broken into if you have an argument with your neighbor,” she said.
Chief Brian Manley addressed staffing in a Tuesday work session, warning council that they should reconsider the proposed cuts.
“If we were to follow through with delaying cadet classes, I think this represents one of the greatest threats to the safety of our community,” he said.
Council will vote on the delay as well as the rest of the general budget next week. For more information on The Austin 20.