AUSTIN, Texas - More Austin police officers have retired this year than any other year on record.
A City of Austin public information request confirmed, by October 1, 77 officers have turned in retirement paperwork this year. At the same time, 35 officers have resigned in 2020, 77% of them had under ten years on the force.
"They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars training these individuals and now they’ve gone to Round Rock, Spokane, Washington, and other places to be law enforcement officers. Some have quit to be firefighters. So we wasted a tremendous amount of money on these officers that are just resigning," said Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association.
Casaday said the department can somewhat plan for retirements because officers must serve 23 years or reach a certain age before qualifying for it. However, unexpected resignations are leaving patrol shorthanded.
"If there’s a ten-person shift, the minimum staffing is eight and a lot of these shifts that I’ve been documenting over a period of time, over the last couple months, we’ve had some showing up with four and five people. That’s just absolutely a danger to our officers and a danger to the citizens," said Casaday.
45 cadets are set to graduate from the academy next week and begin field training, meaning some help is just a few months out. It's the last class that was allowed to move forward before the city council cut $21 million from the police budget. That removed money for unfilled positions, cut the overtime budget, and canceled three upcoming cadet classes.
Because keeping officers on patrol to answer 9-1-1 calls is the priority for APD, putting specially trained officers back on patrol has been the solution thus far. "Sometime over the next year, chief's probably going to have to take another big bite out of specialized units," Casaday said.
In the meantime, Casaday said during recent shifts he's worked, he's noticed response times for some calls are increasing. "They already are for priority 2, 3, 4, but we’re always going to have, I hope, enough officers out there to answer our priority zeros and 1s, which are emergency calls," said Casaday.
Monday, Governor Greg Abbott tweeted about the situation, saying in part, "The State must consider laws that take over policing parts of Austin." Already, he's ordered DPS to support APD with patrols in West Campus after a string of robberies there.
The Austin Police Department refused to comment on this story.
FOX 7 Austin also reached out to the mayor who has yet to send a response.