AUSTIN (KXAN) - The Austin Police Department says it is in serious need of more officers. The department has proposed a five-year plan that would ultimately add more than 300 officers over the course of that time.
“Right now we don’t have enough officers to successfully run the department how we want to,” said Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday.
Fifty-thousand more people are calling Austin home today than two years ago, bringing in more businesses, traffic and crime. “Violent crime has gone up last year and again this year. We’ve had unprecedented number of traffic fatalities. Our 911 response time is the longest it’s been in almost 10 years, it’s enough! We need to adequately fund the size of our police force,” said Greater Austin Crime Commission President David Roche.
Roche says the city agreed to hire more officers but has not given APD any more money to do so since 2016.
“It’s getting to where they can only work the cases they have good leads on and everything else gets pushed to the wayside,” said Casaday.
APD says it needs to add 329 officers over the next five years to keep up with the growing population.
“I think we have to be very clear that there’s a difference between adding more cops on the street who are being paid for overtime and actually adding more officers to the force,” said Austin City Council Member Alison Alter. “Part of the concern we’re hearing from the community is they want additional officers, they don’t want people who have been on overtime and it cost more overtime to pay overtime than it does to hire a new officer.”
Council is now asking the city manager to create a five-year staffing plan and bring it back in 90 days, hoping to start a new police contract that would provide better benefits and recruit more officers.
“I think the fact that we aren’t able to get the contract across the goal line last November, December, was because we did not have that five-year staffing plan,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
Part of this resolution is based on a report by the Matrix Consulting Group. The group says Austin officers have the lowest amount of available time for community policing they have ever analyzed. That’s time away from patrols, calls and paperwork that officers have for neighborhood relationship-building.
In 2016, the consultants said national best practices standards give officers about 35 percent of their time for community policing – Austin officers got less than 22 percent. The Greater Austin Crime Commission said that time increased a bit last year, but only to 24 percent.