Save Austin Now, the native political motion committee behind the campaign to reinstate rules against camping in public, has began circulating a petition to place a brand new proposition on the poll – a mandate that might require sure ranges of staffing on the Austin Police Division.
“Austin … was one of many biggest locations to go, to hang around, to be, and we have to proceed to maintain it that method,” Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, who represents far-Northwest Austin, stated at a press convention Wednesday morning. “We want officers who may help defend us and assist us get to the place we should be as a neighborhood so we are able to really feel secure for our households and one another.”
Supporters of the petition say that is in response to the rise of some violent crimes in Austin and Metropolis Council’s decision last year to cut millions from the Police Division – a transfer that can doubtless be financially unattainable to do sooner or later, as a invoice penalizing cities for slicing police budgets is prone to turn into regulation in Texas.
Petitioners want to gather 20,000 particular person signatures from Austin voters with a view to get their proposal on a poll; they are saying they’re planning for a public vote in November. Matt Mackowiak, Save Austin Now co-founder and chair of the Travis County Republican Occasion, stated the committee has began gathering signatures.
The petition, if it will get on a poll and is accredited by voters, would require that the Austin Police Division employs at the least two full-time sworn officers per each 1,000 residents. At the moment, the division has roughly 1.7 officers for each 1,000 residents.
Whereas APD has lengthy used the ratio of two officers for each 1,000 residents as a reference, a spokesperson stated the division not makes use of that scale to find out staffing wants.
In a 2012 study of police staffing, outdoors consultants stated that ratio appeared arbitrary. They went on to advocate that the police division add 228 sworn positions, leading to 2.11 officers per 1,000 residents.
Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon didn’t reply Wednesday to a request to touch upon the petition.
“George Floyd was killed one 12 months in the past, and as an alternative of engaged on police reform, this group is fear-mongering and making an attempt to keep away from police accountability,” Council Member Greg Casar, who represents North Central Austin, wrote in an emailed assertion.
“Their petition drive is about writing a clean verify of taxpayer funds to their very own division, whereas slicing off funds for all our different public workers and important public security wants.”
The petition would additionally require an extra 40 hours of coaching for officers as soon as they graduate from the cadet academy. Whereas the petition doesn’t dictate precisely what sort of coaching this could be, it says it ought to deal with “important considering, defensive techniques, intermediate weapons proficiency, energetic shooter situations, and hasty react crew reactions.”
“It isn’t contradictory to each assist the police and advocate for modifications that may enhance the effectiveness and accountability for the police,” Cleo Petricek, co-founder of Save Austin Now, stated at Wednesday’s press convention.
A number of of the modifications requested for by Save Austin Now seem like both a part of APD’s protocol already or one thing that town is engaged on. For instance, the petition asks that officers obtain further pay in the event that they converse languages aside from English; based on the division’s most up-to-date contract, that coverage is already in place.
Those that spoke on the press convention, together with the president of the Austin police union, stated the petition would assist make Austin a safer metropolis. They argued that Council members’ resolution to cut back its police funds has led on to an increase in violent crime.
Council reallocated about $20 million from the police division final 12 months, voting to switch the cash to efforts to deal with folks experiencing homelessness and non-police responses to psychological well being crises. Council members argued they have been growing funding to applications that might reduce down on calls to police, and thereby decreasing probably deadly interactions with officers.
“Mayor (Steve) Adler likes to speak about ‘reimagining.’ ‘Reimagining’ is simply one other phrase for having harmful streets in Austin within the title of wokeness,” stated U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, whose district stretches from South Austin to San Antonio and west to Kerrville.
According to recent statistics from the police department, some violent crimes within the metropolis have risen; the variety of murders and aggravated assaults, for instance, are up in comparison with this time final 12 months. On the identical time, situations of kidnapping and rape are down.
Nevertheless, some experts say there isn’t any proof that investing more cash in policing essentially results in a discount in violent crimes.
A spokesperson for the mayor stated his workplace was reviewing the petition and would have a response within the days forward.
This story was produced as a part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.
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