AUSTIN, Texas - From protests in the name of George Floyd during the day to vandalism and the looting of businesses into the night, Austin police officers are working double shifts downtown.
President of the Austin Police Association Ken Casaday says officers are being stretched thin. Some are working 12 to 14-hour shifts.
"We have officers that are doubled up in units. So they are not by themselves," Casaday said. "And it's extremely taxing on the officers because they are not only working on their normal days but they are working on their off days. We are probably going to have a period of time of probably 7 to 8 days where officers don't get any time off."
In early March, the department was already pulling some officers off of specialized units to patrol in response to a staffing shortage where they are 170 officers short.
Casaday says Austin police officers understand what's being asked of them as thousands rally to speak out against racial injustice. The heartbreaking video of George Floyd pinned to the ground by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck has sparked protests across the nation, and has law enforcement condemning Chauvin's actions.
"What happened in Minneapolis was not a mistake. A lot of times officers either make a mistake or they are reacting to something in a split second but that is not what happened in Minneapolis," Casaday said. "It was something that happened over an 8 to 10 minute period which there is no excuse for."
The knee to the neck hold is not a move APD trains its officers to use. "I've been trained in the police academy 23 years ago and we've been trained since that day till today you never use force on someone's neck. the neck try to not hit the neck, it's just the stay away zone," Casaday said. "If that officer would've been five inches to the right with a knee to a guy's shoulder, that would've been totally different. That is something that is trained."
Monday night's images of officers and protestors coming together peacefully are the tone Casaday hopes will be carried into further protests as activists call for a change in policing. "We sat out here, we had 200 people in front of the main," he said. "Had a great conversation last night, they protested and yelled and screamed at but we're also able to verbalize their frustrations with us."
Austin Cops 4 Charities is collecting donations, whether it be food or water, during these protests.