'Save Austin Now' petitions for city to hire more officers

The Austin city manager's proposed budget allocates $442 million dollars to the Austin Police Department. However, the Save Austin Now political action committee is specifically addressing staffing.

"We do not wholly entirely have a police funding crisis, we have a police staffing crisis in our city and that is a manmade disaster," said Matt Mackowiak, a co-founder of Save Austin Now.

The group launched a petition that would make the city, have two officers per 1,000 in the city's population, along with an increase in training. "Combine that with a minimum 35 percent community engagement time. Currently, officers get 40 hours a year of training post-graduation we will take that to 80 hours," said Mackowiak.

The group said the city is facing a huge staffing shortage, with a high attrition rate, meaning many officers are retiring and resigning. "APD authorized 1,809 officers. We presently sit at 1,650," said Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association.

Mackowiak said they also will take on police reform, focusing on hiring minority talent. They also would make council members attend the citizen's police academy.

"Their lack of curiosity is literally costing people their life in our city," he said.

However, some activists feel more police isn't quite the answer. "More cops to do exactly what? The most policed area in the city, Sixth Street, on any given Thursday through Sunday is a place of gun violence and this is the place that has police in cars, police on horses, and these things are still happening," said Chas Moore, executive director of The Austin Justice Coalition.

Moore said the city needs to address the underlying causes of crime, looking into jobs, education, and affordability. "The only people who are going to feel safe by the number of cops being higher is the people that predominately make up the Save Austin Now group, predominately white men," said Moore.

"We are not against anything that addresses the root causes of crime. Before they take on major things like education and the root causes of crime, it'd be nice if they built of confidence of people who lived here by just doing the basics," said Mackowiak.

The petition sits at 15,000 signatures as of July 12. 

The PAC hopes to get this proposal on the November ballot.

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