AUSTIN (KXAN) — Mayor Steve Adler said he is not prepared to support an initiative calling for a $100 million reduction of the Austin Police Department’s budget after two city council members publicly backed the proposal.
The initiative garnered support from Council Member Greg Casar and Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza during an Austin City Council meeting on police reform last week after being proposed by community groups, including Grassroots Leadership, Community’s of Color United, Austin Justice Coalition, and others.
MEASURE, an Austin-based non-profit that uses data to address social injustices, provided evidence-based analysis to support the goal.
Following city council votes on police reform resolutions, Adler tweeted: “We will neither abolish nor defund the police.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Adler said of calls to reduce the APD budget by $100 million. “Until we actually see a budget proposal to show us what that means or what’s involved with that I just don’t know what that means, but using a number that big shows that our challenge is that big.”
When asked what he meant by the tweet, Adler said: “That policing performs a really important function in the community.”
The idea of reducing the APD budget by $100 million has been floated by community groups but was not up for a vote at the Austin City Council meeting last Thursday.
The Austin Police Association shared a poll on Twitter last week that found 77% of Austin voters are opposed to efforts to defund APD. When asked for details about the poll, APA President Ken Casaday said Guardian Strategies conducted the poll and reached out to “most likely voters.”
Community organizations called on Austin City Council members to reduce the APD budget by $100 million while encouraging investment in the city’s RISE fund, Equity Office, public health department, and low-income housing.
Rakhi Agrawal, chief empowerment officer for MEASURE, said there is confusion about what “defunding” and “disbanding” mean.
“When we say defund we mean shrink APD’s budget and reinvest that money into reimagining other solutions and taking some duties off of APD’s plate,” Agrawal said.
The Public Safety Committee, chaired by Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, will meet on Thursday as the first visible action from police reform votes last week.
Flannigan said a reduction to the APD budget may need to exceed $100 million.
“This is not about making rash decisions,” Flannigan said. “This is about identifying the parts of a police officer’s job that do not have to be a police officer and the larger societal issues that we might be able to address so that the crimes don’t even happen to begin with.”
Austin City Council members won’t have a clear picture of the city’s budget projections until the city manager makes a presentation next month.