Massively defunded Austin Police officers to stop responding to non-emergency calls

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AUSTIN, TX – With a staffing crisis adversely affecting the Austin Police Department, and also being one year removed from the city council’s vote to defund the police budget by up to $150 million, officials have announced that sworn police officers will no longer be responding to non-emergency calls.

However, not all non-emergency calls will be devoid of some sort of physical response, as Austin Police officials have confirmed that certain calls may result in civilian police employees being dispatched – such as crime scene technicians for evidence collection purposes.

Starting in October, those reporting non-emergencies in Austin can expect to not see a sworn Austin Police officer responding.

Such instances would be reported burglaries that are not actively in progress and/or the suspect has left, and vehicular collisions not resulting in injury.

In these instances, and others like them, instead of Austin residents calling 911, they’re being directed to call 311 to file a non-emergency report.

An Austin Police spokesperson told Fox News that the department “regularly reviews response policies and procedures to ensure APD prioritizes calls with an immediate threat to life or property over non-emergency calls for service.”

The spokesperson named the aspects that influenced the decision on call prioritization for sworn officers:

“As a result of a recent review of APD’s patrol COVID mitigation protocols initiated in May 2020, recent staffing challenges and aligning with the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force patrol response recommendations, APD will change call routing and response for non-emergency calls for service effective October 1, 2021.”

Staffing issues have been long running with the Austin Police department, according to Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday. He stated that it has been nearly two years since Austin Police has had a police academy and there simply aren’t enough officers to respond to these non-emergency calls:

“Probably about 95% of the time our shifts don’t meet minimum staffing…and that is the reason they’ve started cutting back on what types of calls are answered.

It’s not optimal. It’s not providing a quality service to the community. But the community also needs to understand that we’re under a dire staffing crisis.”

Back in August of 2020, the Austin City Council voted to cut the police budget by up to $150 million – a figure that represented over a third of the Austin Police budget – opting to reinvest that money into other public services.

The department has since been somewhat refunded after last year’s cuts, but that refunding has yet to kick in and not every unit cut has been reestablished.

Austin Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly laid blame to “the previous council’s disastrous actions to reimagine public safety,” with respect to the active staffing crisis impacting the Austin Police Department:

“The officers today are overworked and continue to be short-staffed which leads to increased response times across the city. We need to add additional funding to immediately correct this failure for the safety of our city.”

Charles Wilkison, who serves as the Executive Director of Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, mirrored the sentiments Councilmember Kelly, noting that if more funding isn’t directed to the police budget, the staffing crisis will continue to grow:

“The whimsical reimagining of the police department has normalized violence and murder in a once safe and admired city.”

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Police-defunded Austin surpasses a 61-year high with 60th homicide of 2021

(Originally published September 15th, 2021)

AUSTIN, TX – After two homicides early Sunday morning, the Texas city has reached 60 homicides this year, the most in the 61 years that Austin police have kept records.

The record number surpasses 2020 homicides by 25%, when the city saw 48 murders, and broke the previous record of 59 set in 1984.

The record was shattered Saturday morning with two homicides just minutes apart.

Austin officers responded to a call at the El Nocturno Night Club on 7601 N. Lamar Blvd. after reports of gunfire early Saturday morning. They located a man with several gunshot wounds at the scene. The victim was later pronounced dead.

About 10 minutes after the shooting was called in, other officers had to respond to a stabbing reported downtown. Police located a victim suffering stab wounds who later died. No details have been released about the stabbing.

Austin-American Statesman‘s Tony Plohetski tweeted about the shocking homicide rate plaguing the city:

“Austin has recorded its 60th homicide, the most ever in the 61 years that police have kept records. The 60th case — the stabbing of a man downtown early Sunday — marks a 25% increase in last year’s total of 48.”

Plohetski wrote that the homicide rate in the city stands at 6.0 per 100,000 residents using 2020 census data.

According to the data, last year reached 5.0, breaking a record set in 2016 of 4.21.

He pointed out that the department has added more Homicide Detectives to their roster, and it has helped:

“Police have filed charges in 49 of the 60 cases and have recently added more detectives to the homicide unit.”

Interim Austin Police Department Chief Joseph Chacon said Monday during a press conference regarding the homicide rate:

“This really is a national phenomenon. It is something that is being seen by big cities all across the country.

“We are collaborating as cities to determine what the driving factors are for why that’s happening, but it is not something that is unique to Austin.”

Chief Chacon blamed the violent rise in the city on the number of guns circulating in the city, and the release from prison of people previously convicted of violent crimes.

The Interim Chief said he wants to add more police officers on the streets but pointed out staffing issues began long before the pandemic and defund movement. He said that the problem was aggravated by officers contracting COVID-19 and cadet classes being cancelled because of the pandemic.

The Save Austin Now-backed Proposition A, a proposal to add hundreds of officers to the city, will be voted on in November. The Proposition seeks to:

  • Require minimum staffing of two officers per 1,000 residents.
  • Require a minimum standard of 35% community response time.
  • Add 40 hours of training.
  • Require city council members, Mayor Steve Adler, and other city staff to enroll in the Citizens Police Academy.
  • Facilitate minority officer hiring through foreign language proficiency metrics.

The proposition is a major turnaround from just a year ago, when the Austin City Council voted to cut the police budget by a third amid the “Defund the Police” movement following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the death of Michael Ramos in Austin.

Austin, like many major cities, is experiencing a surge in violent crimes and homicides since the defund movement was pushed by liberal activists and Progressive Democratic lawmakers.

Save Austin Now co-founders Matt Mackowiak and Cleo Petricek issued a statement supporting the proposition:

“Our city can afford the same number of police officers that the city authorized just two years ago. City Hall may not support law enforcement, but city residents do.”

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Fighting back and protecting America: Texas to award border wall contract in the coming days

(Originally published September 13th, 2021)

AUSTIN, TX- According to officials, Texas may award a massive contract to begin building a barrier that will stretch along more than 700 miles of the state’s southern border with Mexico within days of this writing.

The Washington Examiner reported that in a statement, the Texas Facilities Commission, which oversees state contracts, anticipates awarding the border wall project with more than $1 billion in available funds by mid-September.

The commissioners must vote on the decision before the contract for a program manager can be awarded. The commission has reportedly selected engineering firm Michael Baker International of Pennsylvania and design firm Huitt-Zollars of Dallas to team up on the project. 

The final monetary amount has not yet been determined as the program manager will handle the budget and determine where exactly to build. Over the last several months, four total companies have expressed interest in the contract.

Michael Baker International of Pennsylvania and design firm Huitt-Zollars of Dallas have both helped with hundreds of miles of completed border wall projects under previous presidential administrations. 

This is, however, the first time a state has opted to install a barrier at an international border, as it is typically considered the federal government’s responsibility. 

Rep. Greg Bonnen (R), who represents a Houston suburb, introduced a bill that passed the state Legislature in August that will be used to fund Governor Greg Abbott’s proposals to deter illegal immigration at the southern border in Texas.

More than half of the $1.8 billion bill goes toward the border wall and fencing.

An analysis of the existing border wall projects revealed that just 150 miles of the 1,250 miles of land Texas shares with Mexico have a substantive barrier, leaving the state responsible for roughly 1,100 miles of fencing. 

According to reports, the state has identified 733 miles of border-front land where it can build. The Texas National Guard will carry out the project. All of the land belongs to residents who have agreed to let the state put up the barrier, which will allow Texas to avoid the lawsuits that held up the Trump administration’s efforts to seize private land for construction.

Builders are installing “no trespassing” signs in English and Spanish on the new fences. This notice will give state and law enforcement the ability to arrest illegal immigrants found trespassing. While the Border Patrol arrest illegal immigrants on federal charges, state and local forces cannot arrest someone on an immigration charge.

Those arrested will be held in county and state jails, for which lawmakers provided $273 million to cover the costs. The state is reportedly using the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Briscoe Unit prison as a jail. The infusing of cash will allow it to expand jail space to two more state jails.

At present, one engineer battalion is handling the construction of a temporary, 8-foot-tall barbed wire fence. The bill also includes $301 million for an additional 1,800 National Guard soldiers, including 11 more battalions to install fencing that will eventually be replaced by a more solid barrier.

The governor is also crowdfunding donations and as of September 7th, has raised a total of $54,263,593.00. On the website, Governor Abbott stated:

“While securing the border is the federal government’s responsibility, Texas will not sit idly by as the crisis grows. Texas is responding with the most robust and comprehensive border plan the nation has ever seen.”

According to the website:

“Open-border policies have led to a humanitarian crisis at our southern border as record levels of illegal immigrants, drugs, and contraband pour into Texas. The State of Texas is working collaboratively with communities impacted by the border crisis to arrest and detain individuals coming into Texas illegally.”

Adding:

“Our efforts will only be effective if we work together to secure the border, make criminal arrests, protect landowners, rid our communities of dangerous drugs, and provide Texans with the support they need and deserve.”

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