Criminal JusticeLocal NewsTexas DPS to Supply Troopers to Austin Police Amid Department Staffing Woes

The agreement comes as the number of officers departing the police department approaches 100 since the beginning of the year.
March 27, 2023
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will supplement troopers to Austin Police Department (APD) shifts for assistance with the city’s staffing crisis.

The City of Austin announced the partnership with DPS on Monday, with Mayor Kirk Watson saying, “During my run for mayor, I promised we would make city government work better in providing basic services.”

“This is an example of that. It’s a common-sense, practical response to a serious need and arose out of a positive working relationship between the Capital City and the Capitol of Texas. I want to thank Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and DPS Director Steven McCraw for being willing to step in and work with us to ensure the safety of our shared constituents.”

DPS officers’ primary focus in conjunction with the agreement will be on traffic response, but may provide backup to city police during emergencies.

APD Chief Joseph Chacon added, “This is a wonderful resource and partnership that will provide relief to our APD officers and detectives who want nothing more than to focus on keeping Austin safe — whether that’s responding to domestic violence incidents, combatting DWI, or investigating criminal activity.”

The Texan Tumbler

Similar agreements have been implemented in Dallas and San Antonio, and Austin says it will come at no cost to the city. DPS has assisted APD before, including during last month’s breakout of street takeovers.

So far this year, 89 APD officers have departed for a variety of reasons, including the lingering tension between city officials, the police, and “reimagine policing” activists. There are currently 281 vacancies, not including the 150 positions eliminated during the 2020 police budget cut and redirection, leading to low staffing levels for shifts and high response times. That year, the city council also canceled cadet classes, which have since resumed.

To cope with the dearth in staffing, the department has reassigned special units to beat patrol and increased the amount of overtime worked. Since the beginning of 2021, APD has graduated 129 cadets, and another class begins in two months.

Last year, ADP response times ballooned to 10 minutes for emergency calls, City Manager Jesus Garza said Monday. So far this year, 24 traffic fatalities and 19 homicides have occurred in Austin.

This is not the first time the state has waded into the capital city’s debate over public safety. Back in 2020, after the city’s police budget cut, Abbott suggested the state look at annexing APD into DPS and then floated the idea of creating a state patrol zone from downtown past the University of Texas campus.

The governor also backed the fall 2021 ballot proposition that would have set a minimum APD staffing level of two officers per 1,000 people; the proposition was voted down quite handily.

The Texas Legislature also passed a prohibition against big cities cutting their police budgets in 2021, a proposal for which the City of Austin served as the chief catalyst.

Abbott and former Austin Mayor Steve Adler clashed frequently on the issue of public safety but now, Watson is taking a different approach — even touting a “good relationship” between the city and state at Monday’s announcement.

But despite this, the ongoing dispute over a new police labor contract looms large in the broader context.

“It is important that we show our police officers that we support them and that we respect them,” Watson said. He then said the next step is awaiting the results of May’s dueling ballot propositions concerning oversight of APD.

Austin Police Officers Association President Thomas Villareal told The Texan, “While we appreciate DPS stepping in to help us at this critical time, we are disappointed that previous City Management and Council Members ever allowed our staffing to reach such critically low levels.”

“It is the desire of the APA to provide this community with the highest level of service, and it is imperative for the public to understand that the only pathway out of this staffing crisis is through a long term mutually agreeable contract between the City and the Association.”


Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.

Get “KB's Hot Take”

A free bi-weekly commentary on current events by Konni Burton.

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and 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.