A couple of weeks removed from the first protests after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis below the knee of a police officer, the Austin City Council voted on a number of police-related measures.
The council unanimously approved a handful of police-related agenda items including an undetermined budget cut (the Austin Chronicle projects it to be $20 billion), directing portions of police funding to social service-type of programs, setting a goal for zero racial disparity in police metrics, limiting use of force protocols, and prohibiting the use of less-lethal munitions on crowds.
Police already operate from a “use of force matrix.” The city council’s resolutions aim to further restrict those protocols, such as limiting the use of bean bag rounds.
The council also prohibited the use of tear gas and facial recognition technology, as well as instituted a requirement for other officers to intervene when an officer is violating excessive force protocols.
They also passed a resolution of “no confidence” in Austin Police Department leadership to implement their changes.
The council convened at 10 a.m. and did not finish voting on the police-related provisions until around 9:30 p.m. Much of that time consisted of public testimony on the topic.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler took to Twitter afterward to applaud the body for its actions. He stated, “This moment, this movement, to me, is not just about policing. Institutional racism and systemic inequities are in everything. Access to capital. Health care. Education. Housing. Jobs. Salary. Wealth accumulation. Covid-19 susceptibility.”
“We will neither abolish nor defund the police. We will not compromise the safety of the community. Period. But re-imaging policing & investing in people & the community hold the promise of making us even more safe,” he concluded.
The Austin Police Officers Association did not reply to request for comment at the time of publishing.
City officials made it clear this is not the end of their changes and the calls for Police Chief Brian Manley’s resignation are growing, even from some on the council.
Austin is not even a year removed from the wildly controversial loosening of its camping and lying laws, allowing homeless individuals to reside in more public areas of the city. Added to that, the city is slowing returning to normal business after mandated closures by the city, county, and state due to the pandemic.
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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.