(Natural News) The Austin City Council has passed the city’s budget, and with it a proposal to defund the police by slashing $150 million from the Austin Police Department (APD). This move comes after intense pressure from the city’s chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Austin City Council, while officially a nonpartisan institution, is completely filled with officials affiliated with the Democratic Party, including the city’s mayor, Steve Adler, who supported the motion to reduce the budget for his city’s police force.
“I think this is the most forward-looking budget in memory,” said Adler on Thursday. “This is really the budget where we launch our future … as a fairer, more just, equitable, more universally acceptable city.”
The APD’s previous budget was around $434 million. The $150 million cut represents roughly 34 percent of the department’s total budget. Previously, City Manager Spencer Cronk proposed cutting the APD’s budget by a generous $11 million. However, advocates of defunding and abolishing the police department quickly overtook the conversation, strongly criticizing what they considered to be a barely negligible budget reduction. (Related: BREAKING: Antifa terrorists in Austin, Portland just received a large cache of weapons in preparation for coordinated multi-city “TET offensive” against America.)
Other members of the city council expressed their happiness at the fact that they helped reduce the effectiveness of the APD.
Councilwoman Natasha Harper-Madison admitted to being pressured into voting for the proposal when she praised the fact that the budget was drawn up because of “overwhelming and unprecedented community input.” Councilman Gregorio Casar, without any evidence, said that the new budget will go toward making Austin’s communities safer. Councilwoman Alison Alter said that the lack of an adequately funded police force will help Austin’s communities of color, who represent around half of the city’s population.
Listed below are just some of the departments and services within the APD that have had their budgets reduced, and approximately how much has been taken from them.
- Traffic Enforcement – $18.4 million
- 911 Call Center – $17.7 million
- Support Services – $14.1 million
- Forensic Sciences – $12.7 million
- Park Police – $5.8 million
- Internal Affairs – $4.5 million
- Special Events – $4.4 million
- Victims Services – $3.1 million
- Officer Overtime Budget – $2.8 million
- Community Partnerships – $2.5 million
- Canceling 3 Cadet Classes – $2.2 million (more cuts expected in the future)
- Mounted Patrol – $2.1 million
- Austin Regional Intelligence Center – $2 million
- Special Investigations – $1.8 million
- Lake Patrol – $1.4 million
- Organized Crime and K-9 Units – $1.2 million
- Nuisance Abatement – $312,000
- License Plate Readers – $133,000
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City council vows to reinvest money into social services
Only around $20 million of the $150 million cut will go into effect immediately, mostly from reducing the overtime budget, eliminating 150 currently vacant sworn officer positions and either completely cutting or delaying the continuation of several officer cadet classes, with this money being fully reallocated into funds for violence prevention programs, as well as food access and abortion access programs.
Another $80 million will be put into a “Decouple Fund,” which will allow several services currently functioning inside the APD, such as forensic sciences and victim services, to be transferred to a different department. Most of these services will be gradually redistributed throughout the fiscal year and beyond.
The remaining $50 million will be put on hold by the Austin City Council and placed into a “Reimagine Safety Fund,” where that money will stay as the council figures out “alternative forms of public safety and community support,” as dictated by the Black Lives Matter movement’s overall demands.
The Greater Austin Crime Commission (GACC), which advocates for first responders and better public safety in the Greater Austin metropolitan area, came out with critical support for the city council’s push to defund the police. They approved of the additional funding for unarmed services such as community health, family violence, mental health response and violence prevention programs, which they said represent good public safety investments.
However, the GACC expressed concerns over the elimination of the vacant positions in the APD, as well as with the three cadet classes whose continuations have been put on hold.
“The community fully supports the dedicated professionals in our public safety departments, including the 1,756 police officers, who risk everything for us every day.”
Local and state groups and officials strongly criticize defunding efforts
Texas’ Gov. Greg Abbott, a solid Republican, is one of many local and state groups and leaders who have voiced their concerns over the city council’s rash action to defund the APD. Abbott himself did not mince words, and called the budget cut the victory of “political agendas over public safety.”
Abbott vowed that the Texas Department of Public Safety will do everything in its power to support the APD until the Texas Legislature, both houses of which are controlled by the Republican Party, can take up the issue and resolve it.
“Public safety is job one, and Aust in has abandoned that duty,” said Abbott in a statement.
The Austin Police Association, the city’s police union that advocates for rank-and-file APD officers, strongly criticized the proposal before it was voted upon, saying that it is “ridiculous” and will make the city more unsafe for its residents.
“They are going to ignore the majority who do not want the police defunded,” they said.
Thank you for supporting the Austin Police Department. The council's budget proposals continue to become more ridiculous and unsafe for Austinites. They are going to ignore the majority who do not want the police defunded. The community will need help @ the Capitol. @gacc97 https://t.co/mBhDZRmWxT
— Austin Police Association (@ATXPOA) August 13, 2020
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, on the other hand, placed the blame on the Austin City Council’s decision on cancel culture, saying that this is what pressured the councilmembers to approve the defunding proposal.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “the targets of this ‘cancelling’ are the brave men and women who selflessly put their lives on the line to keep our families safe. The city council’s action to slash funding disregards the safety of our capital city, its citizens and the many guests who frequent it.”
Furthermore, the attorney general pointed out that Austin is already struggling with an increasing rate of crime, violence and homelessness, and how defunding the APD is not going to solve any of these problems. He urged the city council to strongly reconsider what he believes to be an “ill-advised effort at virtue signaling” before it leads to the destruction of private property and the death of innocent Austinites.
Melanie Rodriguez, president of the Austin Police Women’s Association, agreed with the attorney general and asked Chief of Police Brian Manley to “defund” the executive protection unit that serves as the bodyguards for councilmembers.
“If the mayor and council need special protection, they can hire it themselves or put it in a rider for the next budget that removes $150 million from our department,” she said.
This effort to defund the APD is just the latest in a series of attacks against law enforcement units throughout the country. Learn about the latest incidents in places like Portland, Chicago and Seattle by signing up for a free email newsletter at PoliceViolence.news.