Austin’s city council voted this afternoon to slash $11.3 million from the city’s police budget.
Note the tone in this piece, which is supposed to be a news story by local station KVUE:
The proposed budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year of $4.2 billion – the same size as last year’s – adjusts to new fiscal constraints and community expectations, with focused investments in core programs and City infrastructure, according to the city manager’s office. The proposed $1.1 billion general fund budget supports re-imagining public safety through a reallocation of police funding to health, housing, and other critical social services. The capital budget includes $1.2 billion in planned spending.
That’s not a news story, it’s a press release.
How does this city budget “adjust to fiscal constraints” if it’s the same size as last year’s? Only if spending increases are always uncritically assumed, which of course they are.
This budget includes a “re-imagining of public safety,” which has been deteriorating for the past year since the city council and Mayor Steve Adler allowed homeless camping just about everywhere except city hall. Crime was rising before the coronavirus plague and the violent protests. It has only worsened since.
The “re-imagining” (a loathsome term that deserves to be tossed into the dustbin of history) includes opportunistic shifting of public money away from public safety and toward the left’s pet projects.
A few bullet points on what the cuts will actually do.
Eliminating 100 vacant police officer positions from the forecast budget for a total reduction of $9.2 million.
Delaying the July 2020 cadet class resulting in an estimated $1.5 million reduction.
Delaying scheduled replacement of duty weapons, resulting in a $400,000 reduction.
Transferring Austin Center for Events staff to the Development Services Department for a reduction of $200,000.
APD was already about 180 officers short of full strength at the beginning of 2020. Those positions will never be filled now, and the next cadet class is being delayed. After graduation, newly minted officers still need 7 to 8 months of training on the job. Delaying that cadet class delays their careers and delays the point at which they will be fully ready for duty. Austin is stressing its police department at both ends, which will damage both effectiveness and morale.
Austin police officers have been working 60 to 80 hour work weeks since the protests began, as the protests have sprung up most nights and virtually all weekends since the end of May. Adding to this stress, protesters have filed about 1,000 complaints against them. Those have been whittled down to about 250 according to various reports, which is still a very high number and will tax the internal affairs division as well as any officer against whom a complaint has been lodged. Some number of APD officers have also reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 since the protests began.
Police departments in large cities nationwide are likely experiencing similar, if not worse, strains. Officers nearing the ends of their careers are retiring early and leaving the force, to the extent that New York had to order halts to officer retirements. The retirement rate there is nearly double last year’s.
The protests in Austin are smaller than they once were, with no more than a few dozen turning out in a city of nearly a million residents. They still try commandeering the city’s highways and streets, forcing officers to deploy in sufficient numbers to stop them.
The APD cuts come just two days after a routine police call in McAllen, Texas turned deadly in a flash. Audon Ignacio Camarillo, 23, ambushed officers Edelmiro Garza, 45, and Ismael Chavez, 39, during a routine call — killing them both.
Every call can turn deadly. Thanks to cities defunding police, more of them are likely to.