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.
The scene near Galindo Street in Austin, Texas on March 12, 2018 where a woman in her 70s was injured in an explosion. (AFP via Getty Images)
An APD spokesperson told Fox News that although a sworn police officer might not respond to non-emergency there could be instances where a civilian officer, such as a crime scene technician, responds to a scene to take evidence. She stated that the APD “reviews response policies and procedures regularly to ensure APD prioritizes emergency calls over those with a threat to life, property or both.”
“As a result of a recent review of APD’s patrol COVID mitigation protocols initiated in May 2020, recent staffing challenges and aligning with the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force patrol response recommendations, APD will change call routing and response for non-emergency calls for service effective October 1, 2021,” she said.
Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday told Fox News that APD has gone nearly two years without a police academy and does not have enough patrol officers to respond to non-emergency calls.
“Probably about 95% of the time our shifts don’t meet minimum staffing … and that is the reason they’ve started cutting back on what types of calls are answered,” Casaday said. It’s not ideal. Casaday stated that it is not providing quality services to the community. The community must also understand the dire staffing situation.
Austin City Council voted in August 2020 to cut up to $150 million from its police department budget – a little more than a third of its total budget – and reinvest that money into other public services.
The decision came on the heels of a chaotic summer, marked by nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Major cities, including Los Angeles and New York slashed their police department budgets as activists railed against police misconduct.
The department was partially refunded earlier this year, but not all of the units that were cut came back and the funding has yet to kick in. The remaining officers are now spread thin.
Austin Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly, District 6, has blamed the current staffing crisis on “the disastrous actions of the previous council to reimagine safety and public security.”
” Today’s officers are overwhelmed and have a shortage of staff, which results in increased response time across the city. She stated that we need additional funds to address this problem immediately for safety and security of the city.
Charles Wilkison is the Executive Director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas. He warned that the police staffing shortage will continue to grow and that the number of emergencies that officers will not be able respond to would only increase if there was no additional funding. The whimsical reimaginings of the police have normalized violence, murder and pride in an once loved and safe city,” he stated.
APD urges people to use iReportAustin.com or call 311 to report crimes that are no longer in progress or when there is no immediate threat to life or property. People should continue calling 911 for emergency calls when there is a threat to life or property, APD said.