As the Austin Police Department faces a prolonged personnel shortage and rising crime, Mayor Kirk Watson says one of his top priorities is to come to a contract agreement with the Austin Police Association.

According to the Austin Monitor, Watson plans to introduce a renewal of a temporary pay package for officers that the Austin City Council passed in 2023. 

Watson says that he has been in contact with the new Austin Police Association union president, Michael Bullock, and that their discussions have been productive. 

“The new president of the APA and I have had multiple conversations. I have found him to be very clear when he says that that ordinance is important to his officers so that they feel a sense of certainty that it’s going to be renewed,” said Watson.

“The best way for us to assure that our police officers have a good place that they can work and they have some certainty is to get us to a contract. And my hope is that with the new president, that we’ll get back to the table and we’ll have those discussions. I’m more hopeful right now than I have been really anytime this year,” he added.

Co-founder of Save Austin Now Cleo Petricek commented on the news, saying, “The TOP priority for not just the Mayor but the entire Austin City Council MUST BE securing a police contract. I can’t take another year of these spineless council members talking out of both sides of their mouths— emphasizing the importance of public safety & swift emergency responses while doing everything to further drive morale into the ground.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott agreed with Petricek’s sentiments, saying, “It’s past time for Austin to support police, and to restore law & order.”

Texas Scorecard has previously reported on the APD staffing shortage and the rising crime plaguing the city. 

After the 2020 riots, the APD budget was defunded by $150 million––roughly a third of its total budget––under the Democrat-run City Council. Since then, lawlessness has skyrocketed. The city’s murder rate has spiked, and last April, Austin was deemed to have the 15th biggest “Homicide Rate Problem” according to a WalletHub study.

Additionally, more than 800 officers have left the APD in the last six years.

In September, due to the staffing shortage, city officials told robbery victims to forego calling emergency services and instead call a number often used to report graffiti and potholes.

APD posted on social media giving instructions for robbery victims and telling citizens to call 311—a non-emergency city hotline—instead of 911. 

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.