On Thursday the Austin City Council unanimously voted to cut $150 million from the police department.
States all across the country, including Texas, have seen anti-police brutality or even anti-police protests demanding that the police be defunded and abolished. When asked what defunding and/or abolishing the police will look like many say that means redirecting police funds to social and mental health services a well as an alternative public safety program.
Austin is the first of the four big cities in Texas to defund the police. This slash from the budget is among the largest percentage drops in the country this year.
Councilmember Greg Casar is responsible for creating the three-part plan to reduce police funding. He said, “This moment has been born out of a lot of hurt in the community, we know we have a long way to go.”
According to a document from the council, this one-third defunding proposal calls for an immediate cut of $21.5 million. The immediate drop in the budget will eliminate funding from three planned police cadet classes and moving those funds to things like violence prevention, food access, as well as abortion access funding. It’s interesting that they want funds to prevent violence all the while allowing and facilitating violence to continue against unborn children.
The council did say that if there is a “revised curriculum” and a “more appropriate recruitment program” then they may allow one or two cadet classes to begin at the start of the 2021 fiscal year. It is unclear what would consist of the “new” curriculum and recruitment program.
The Texas Tribune reports, “Another $80 million in cuts would come from a yearlong process that will redistribute money used for civilian functions like forensic sciences, support services, and victims’ services to other departments. About $50 million would come from reallocating dollars to a ‘Reimagine Safety Fund’ that would divert money toward ‘alternative forms of public safety and community support through the yearlong reimagining process.'”
In response to this proposal, Governor Greg Abbot said the council’s actions represent a triumph of political agendas over public safety. He also said,
“Austin’s decision puts the brave men and women of the Austin Police Department and their families at greater risk, and paves the way for lawlessness. Public safety is job one, and Austin has abandoned that duty.”
Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, says the decision from Austin City Council to slash the budget of the police was a “political haymaker driven by the pressures of cancel culture.” He also said that this proposal targets the men and women who selflessly and bravely serve as police officers to protect the city. He continued that this slash “disregards the safety of our capital city, its citizens, and the many guests who frequent it.”
Since April, the city council has scrutinized the Austin Police Department and their response to protests that sparked in the city after the killing of George Foyd.
At the start of June, four council members said they’ve lost faith in Austin Police Chief, Brian Manley, for how he was handling the protests, and a member called for his resignation. Chief Manley did not resign, nor was he fired.
The council unanimously voted in early June to limit the officers’ use of force. These limitations include the banning of “less-lethal” munitions and restrictions of using deadly force.
It is the duty of police officers to keep the public safe. If there is a threat to public safety, like a riot, they are obligated to get it under control and keep the citizens safe. Limiting their funding will severely restrict the officers’ ability to do their jobs, limit resources for training, police departments will be short-staffed, and most importantly the safety of the public will be compromised.