After months of deliberations, the Austin City Council unanimously approved a Fiscal Year 2021 budget that includes over $150 million in cuts to, and diversions from, the police department budget.
About 85 percent of that total amount will be diverted into intermediate funds that will facilitate the transition from the Austin Police Department (APD) budget to other purposes such as to civilian and other alternative forms of public safety.
Of that, $80 million will be placed into a “Decouple Fund” that will divert non-law enforcement sections of APD — such as victim services, communications, and forensics — into different city departments.
About $50 million will go into a “Reimagine Safety Fund” intended to move canine units, mounted patrols, park police, intelligence, and others away from APD oversight.
Immediate cuts will come from:
- $21.5 million from eliminating three cadet classes
- $3 million in reallocation to the Office of Police Oversight and the Equity Office
- $3 million in overtime costs
Austin Councilman Greg Casar said of the cuts, “Today’s budget vote is unprecedented in Texas. We’ve begun a transformational change away from mass incarceration and toward real community safety.”
“We know that we cannot simply police away our community’s challenges. Thousands of Austinites demanded we invest deeply in the public health and safety of our community. Today, we chose to create a safer city,” he added.
Governor Greg Abbott weighed in, saying, “Some cities are more focused on political agendas than public safety. Public safety is job one, and Austin has abandoned that dudty. The legislature will take this issue up next session, but in the meantime, the Texas Department of Public Safety will stand in the gap to protect our capital city.”
The city council will establish protocols for when these fund diversions are actually instituted down the road.
The council has been pushed, along with many other local governments across the country, by progressive activists to “Defund the Police” ever since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
Back in June, the Austin City Council approved a police budget cut, but at that time the amount was unspecified. City Manager Spencer Cronk returned with a budget proposal that cut APD funds by $11 million, but councilmembers voiced their serious disapproval of the proposal and wanted much more.
The City of Houston, meanwhile, increased its police budget despite calls for massive cuts.
The full Austin budget will be viewable here in the coming weeks, according to Mayor Steve Adler.
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters Thursday that due to the cut, “[APD] will go back to a staffing level [it] had in 2015 and so this will require some work to address that so we can ensure we provide the highest level of public safety that we can to the community.”
The City of Austin has experienced a 64 percent increase in its homicide rate throughout this year compared to 2019.
City council recently approved a $7 billion transit project that will increase city property taxes by 20 percent.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from its original version to include statements from Chief Manley and Governor Abbott.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.