Austin witnessing mass exodus of officers following new police-bashing city policies, cop-targeting district attorney


AUSTIN, TX – The Austin Police Department is seeing a mass exodus of officers since massive budget cuts and a new district attorney issuing a policy to re-investigate officers for closed cases.

The Austin City Council voted unanimously in August to defund the police department by about a third of its budget. The cuts were passed despite warnings from law enforcement groups and others that the cuts would create a surge in officers fleeing the city.

A total of $150 million from APD’s budget will be reallocated. Of that, $49 million will be diverted to other programs, $21 million was reallocated immediately and $80 million will be reallocated later. Those cuts also included cutting some future cadet classes. 

Police morale was also hit when a new district attorney pledged a hard line on prosecuting officers for wrongdoing, a move some said made officers targets for persecution.

Travis County District Attorney José Garza promised to re-investigate officers who had been accused of misconduct, even when those cases were closed. During his election campaign, he said he would “bring all police shootings and more police misconduct cases before a grand jury.”

PJ Media reported that the Austin Police Department is now suffering a huge surge in officers leaving the department, putting it on pace to shatter 2020’s record.

According to PJ Media, 20 officers retired and eight others resigned from the department in January. In February, another six officers retired and five resigned.

The trend continued in March when 20 more officers retired, three resigned, and one was terminated.

In 2019, for comparison, 46 officers retired and 22 officers resigned. In 2020, exacerbated by the George Floyd riots and the pandemic, 89 officers left the department. 78 of those officers left between the riots and the end of the year.

According to the Austin Police Retirement System (APRS), prior to 2020, retirements averaged 50-52 per year over the last 5-6 years, 2020 saw a record number of retirements at 97.

In the first quarter of 2021, the department saw 45 retirements and 18 resignations or terminations. The Austin Police Department experienced a total of 63 separations in just the first quarter of 2021.

If the current pattern holds, the department could lose approximately 252 officers this year. That is five times the average number of separations per year.

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 Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said:

“It’s extremely concerning. We’re using overtime and forcing people back to patrol just to be able to keep up with 9-1-1 calls. We fully expect to take 50 more officers off of specialized units just to keep up with patrol.”

The actions of the Austin City Council have created a situation in which the police department cannot respond to every emergency within the city. Casaday said:

“What we’re seeing is our priority twos and threes, which are, you know, criminal trespass assaults, other types of calls now that are waiting for anywhere from two to six hours. And that’s just not acceptable.”

“We’ve had Sunday shifts showing up on occasion with, you know, four, five officers and they should have eight to 10. Don’t get me wrong, the chief has authorized the overtime to be spent. But right now, people are just so exhausted that only five people showed up on a shift and trying to work Sixth Street in the downtown area is pretty rough when you only have that amount of officers.”


Texas Governor Greg Abbott decried the budget cuts in October, saying the council endangered the lives of residents:

“This is caused by Austin’s cuts to police funding & it endangers lives in Austin. The State must consider laws that take over policing parts of Austin.”

Charley Wilkinson, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), said the Austin City Council has turned the police into a political tool to placate the anti-police left. He said the council has “fallen under the influence of hard-line anti-police activists.”

He said the anti-police activists do not “reflect the mainstream in Austin, but they have been very loud”:

“For the first time in modern memory, the city negotiated a contract with the police union, only to have activists storm the city council meeting and demand the contract be turned down, and it was.

“Mayor Steve Adler wouldn’t be fit to hold the shoes of Austin mayors of the past.

“listening to people who want to change America and make it more like China. These are mistakes we don’t have to make.”

New city council member Mackenzie Kelly, who took office after the defunding vote, said that the issue needs to be studied and corrected:

“We need to look at the root causes of these officers leaving. Not just those that are eligible to retire, but also those just plain quitting. We are losing our most experienced officers and the community is suffering because of it.”

The separations from Austin Police Department have created a significant manpower issue and have hit services throughout the department. In addition to patrol, cuts have been made to tactical intelligence, gang crimes, narcotics enforcement, investigations, and the bomb squad.

Budget cuts have also reduced the number of officers available to fill openings. The department had to cancel police cadet classes.

Austin has witnessed a staggering increase in homicides this year. The city saw 21 homicides in the first quarter of 2021, putting it on pace to exceed the total of 44 in 2020. Homicides in 2019 numbered 31.

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