AUSTIN (KXAN) — Jumping on a national movement, the Austin Justice Coalition is encouraging people to ask city council members to “Defund the Police” at an emergency hearing set for Thursday.
Protesters could be seen holding signs with the phrase outside of APD’s Headquarters building over the weekend.
AJC Executive Director Chas Moore says on Thursday, his organization will ask Austin City Council Members to divest funding in the police department and put it toward other resources in the community that he feels could better serve diverse communities, like health services, housing, parks and cultural centers.
“Instead of equating and thinking that police is the only way to public safety, we have to think outside of that box of just police being public safety,” Moore told KXAN.
Moore is encouraging others to join AJC at Thursday’s meeting to call on council members to reduce the police department’s funding.
He says despite the phrase, “Defund the Police,” it’s not AJC’s intention for APD to be completely defunded.
“It just means that we need to divest some of the funds and resources that’s going into the police department and putting them into other areas of public safety,” Moore said.
He says the effort would focus on convincing council members to take some funding that the department spends on items like weapons, along with downtown surveillance and the hiring of new officers, and allocate that elsewhere.
The Greater Austin Crime Commission says reducing officers and police resources in a rapidly growing city isn’t the answer.
“Just look at the data,” the commission’s president, Corby Jastrow said. “Look at our response times. Look at our crime rates. They’re continuing to increase.”
Jastrow calls ideas like defunding the police dangerous.
“The city of Austin deserves a pragmatic and thoughtful discussion at city council about budget and about officers,” Jastrow said.
According to the city of Austin, about 330 people had signed up to speak at Thursday’s emergency hearing as of Wednesday afternoon.