Austin City Council decided a year ago to pause police cadet classes and began a process of defunding the police. As a driver of that decision, Mayor Adler prefers the word “reallocating” to “defunding.” I suggest a couple of other words: decimating and demoralizing the individuals sworn to protect and serve our city. Those words reflect the result of the decision by City Council.
Austin’s current number of sworn police officers is below the staffing levels in 2004. To put that in context, the population of Austin in 2004 was 1,075,00. The population in the Austin metro area in 2020 was 2,053,000. That means that Austin’s population has essentially doubled since 2004 but with a smaller size police force than in 2004. No wonder crime has increased in our city.
City Council recently voted to restart police cadet classes on June 7th. This previously cancelled cadet class will start with fewer cadets than the group that had committed to starting in June 2020. This cadet class will be run as a pilot with oversight to determine whether changes to police training are implemented. The City Council vote to resume police classes was conditional, with the right to pause classes if Council’s desired changes have not been made. The class is officially called the Pilot Reimagined Cadet Training Academy.
With the passage of Proposition C on May 1st, the Austin City Council (rather than the City Manager) is authorized to determine how the director of the Office of Police Oversight is appointed or removed through a city ordinance.
All organizations should make changes that improve the purpose of the organization. This includes police departments and city governments. What all of this means for Austin’s public safety is yet to be seen, but I am not optimistic given the reckless decisions made by City Council in the past. One need only look to cities like New York, Baltimore, and Portland to see how local efforts resulting in the decimation of their police force have worked out.