Austin, TX – Due to severe staffing shortages within the Austin Police Department, sworn police officers will stop responding to non-emergency calls starting next week.
Under the new policy, burglaries no longer in progress or collisions with no injury would not be cause for a 911 call. Instead, residents in Austin would call 311 and file a non-emergency report.
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) September 24, 2021
There would be situations where a civilian officer would go out to the scene to gather evidence if it was deemed necessary.
“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,” – APD Spokesperson
The Austin Police Department has gone almost two years without a police academy and currently does not have enough officers available 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. It’s not optimal. It’s not providing a quality service to the community, but the community also needs to understand that we’re under a dire staffing crisis.” – Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday
In August 2020, the Austin City Council voted to cut the Police Department’s budget by $150 million, and the department is suffering due to the cutbacks. The city council voted to reinvest the money into other public services. Some of the department was refunded earlier this year, but the funding hasn’t kicked in yet. Not all of the units that were cut back in August 2020 have returned.
“The officers today are overworked and continue to be short-staffed, which leads to increased response times across the city. We need to add additional funding to immediately correct this failure for the safety of our city,” – Austin Council member Mackenzie Kelly
The Austin Police Department asks people to call 311 or utilize iReportAustin.com for crimes that are no longer in progress or do not present a threat to life or property. They ask residents to only call 911 when there is an immediate threat of danger to someone’s life or property.
Charles Wilkison, Executive Director of Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, is concerned that the situation will only worsen with the lack of funding and available officers.
“The whimsical reimagining of the police department has normalized violence and murder in a once safe and admired city,” – Charles Wilkison