Local NewsPetition Launched to Restore Austin Police Department After $150 Million Budget Cut and Redirection

The group aims to collect 50,000 signatures in 50 days to land the petition on the November 2021 ballot.
May 26, 2021
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Less than a month since the ringleaders of Save Austin Now emerged victorious in their effort to reinstate the homeless public camping ban, they have launched another petition effort to restore the Austin Police Department (APD) after last year’s $150 million budget cut and redirection.

Dubbed “Make Austin Safe,” to place the petition on the November 2021 ballot the group aims to collect 50,000 signatures in 50 days — an endeavor, co-founder Matt Mackowiak said, that has never been done before.

If put on the ballot and approved by voters, the petition would require the city to staff its police department at a widely accepted adequate level of 2.0 officers per 1,000 residents. Currently, APD is operating around 1.2 per 1,000 with 300 current vacancies.

The department is currently bleeding 15 officers per month from its ranks as many take early retirements or depart for other localities. That rate a couple of years ago was six per month.

Over the weekend, a shooting victim waited 12 minutes before police could arrive on scene because of how much the department is stretched thin. In the next few months, the council’s cuts and reallocations will ramp up as more specialized police units are moved out from under the APD umbrella or eliminated. It also includes a reassignment of 10 percent of detectives to patrol units.

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It has grown so substantially that cadet classes, while operating, struggle to replace those leaving. Making it even more difficult is the city’s postponement of a few cadet classes last year as part of the budget cut. The city council has only recently reapproved classes and the first is set to start next month.

The other aspects of the petition include a minimum of 35 percent community response time for officers; an additional 40 hours of police training above current levels; a boost to minority hiring through foreign language proficiency rather than quotas; and a requirement that the mayor, city council, city manager, and city staff all enroll in the Citizens Police Academy and accompany officers on ride-alongs.

Mackowiak was joined by Democrat and co-founder Cleo Petricek, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21), representatives with the Office of the Attorney General, theUniversity of Texas parent-led  organization SafeHorns, former Austin City Councilwoman Ellen Troxclair, and various police organizations in the announcement.

“Austin has never been less safe than it is today and we must make Austin safer for everyone who lives here. Attrition is harming readiness and response times. Police morale is at an all-time low. We cannot recruit, retain, or pay overtime,” Mackowiak and Petricek said in a joint statement.

“Thankfully, we can fix this. Mayor Steve Adler and the city council have once again made our city less safe and they refuse to admit it. We will again clean up their mess.”

Rep. Roy added, “Law enforcement is critical to the functioning of a free society. Mayor Adler likes to talk about ‘reimagining,’ but that’s just another word for wokeness and making our streets unsafe.”

Asked if this effort is supplemental to the various legislation cracking down on “police defunding” making its way through the legislature, Mackowiak told The Texan, “We are absolutely working with the state to address this issue, but it starts here and cannot be solved unless Austin residents fix it.”

As of last month, Austin’s homicide rate was 53 percent above its 2020 level. And especially since the pandemic, violent crime in Austin has spiked.

The city council and Mayor Steve Adler received a sharp rebuke from Austin voters on the camping ban. Now Mackowiak and Petricek are hoping to channel the same aversion to the city council’s policies to push this police-focused effort across the finish line.

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Brad Johnson

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 quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.

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