As the consequences of the Austin City Council’s decision to cut police funding continue to mount, Fox News reports:
Austin’s sworn police officers will stop responding in person to non-emergency calls starting next week amid severe staffing shortages in the department.
Under this policy, collisions with no injury or burglaries no longer in progress or where the suspect has left, would not warrant a 911 call.
Austin residents in these situations and others like it will have to call 311 and file a non-emergency report.
This predictable development came after the Democrat-run city council controversially legalized unrestrained homeless camping throughout the city in 2019, then defunded the Austin Police Department up to $150 million (a whopping one-third of their budget) in 2020.
The homeless camping decision sparked a firestorm of problems, violent crime, and citizen outrage. The decision was eventually overruled in May by a citizen-led Save Austin Now petition campaign and a majority of Austin voters.
Meanwhile, since the police defunding, homicides on the streets have exploded to all-time highs in 2021, with more killings this year than any in the past six decades of records (and that’s with three months still left in the year). APD Chief Joseph Chacon said the department is in a “dire situation” this summer, with a growing wave of officers leaving the force, numerous police units disbanded, “dramatically slower” 911 response times, and hundreds of officer positions expected to be vacant.
While the council has subsequently walked back some of those budget cuts, the backlog they created won’t disappear overnight.
Furthermore, while APD has resumed cadet classes, the city’s new police training materials show far more interest in promoting racist ideologies rather than public safety.
Austinites will have an opportunity to vote to restore police funding this fall, as citizen group Save Austin Now recently completed another petition campaign (with more than 25,000 signatures) to put a proposed public safety law on the November ballot. The proposal would reform and restore adequate officer staffing to APD, specifically, the nationally recognized “Safe City Standard” of two police officers per 1,000 citizens.
In the meantime, concerned citizens may contact their council member.