Austin Facing Crisis Thanks To Police Staffing Shortage

Nearly four years after Austin, Texas slashed its police department budget by $150 million, the city is feeling the ramifications. The situation is so dire that one section of the city was left without any police officers for two hours on February 17, and only two police officers in the area were available to respond to 9-1-1 calls.

The APD is roughly 600 officers short of normal staffing levels, and the number of officers covering each area of the city has almost been cut in half, from 12 officers per sector to seven per sector.

But the APD isn’t just feeling the effects of the staffing shortage. Citizens are feeling the squeeze as well. People are even encouraged to dial 3-1-1 instead of 9-1-1 unless they are experiencing a true emergency. 3-1-1 is the number for non-emergency situations and general questions about the city.

This was done to help take the stress off a police department that is stretched incredibly thin.

The APD’s request was mocked heavily on X.

One disgruntled citizen said, “No, you should be able to call 911 and a real live police officer should be dispatched to see you in 15 minutes or less. You are setting up everyone in the community as targets for criminals with the process you have implemented.”

Another predicted what already seems to be happening to the APD.

“Chase cops away and discourage the rest, don’t be surprised if cops do less and less of what we used to call basic police work.”

Austin’s current situation stems from an effort spearheaded by Rep. Greg Casar (D-TX) to defund the APD. Casar, and other members of The Squad, a group of eight Democratic members of the House of Representatives, have been pushing to defund the police on a nationwide level, fighting what they see as an inherently racist and corrupt system.

Recently Casar wrote to the Department of Justice on December 15, 2023, asking them to investigate the Austin Police Department for a range of questionable or excessive practices.
Ironically just six days later, on December 21 Casar did an about face, and requested enhanced police patrols at his home. The reaction to this was swift and vocal.

The Austin Retired Police Officers Association was the first to roundly criticize Casar, posting on X.

Others went after Casar as well, including Austin attorney Adam Loewy. He pointed out the apparent hypocrisy of Casar’s political stance, saying, “So Greg Casar believes APD is a racist institution that requires DOJ oversight, but then requests more APD patrols around his house. Interesting juxtaposition.”

But despite the reaction to Casar’s hypocrisy, Dennis Farris, the President of the Austin Retired Police Officers Association still wants to help Casar or anyone else if they need police protection.

“It doesn’t matter what political party they’re in,” Farris said. “If they ask us for our help we will give it to them. The last thing we want is something happening to them.”

But unless things are reversed, the Austin Police Department won’t be able to do its job properly. The APD has been crippled by a massive number of retirements and resignations.
In 2023 alone, 40 officers either retired or resigned. There are now over 300 vacancies in the APD. The police department and the city of Austin have yet to recover from this.

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