How APD, AFD recruit classes are forced to adapt because of the coronavirus

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Cadet classes for the Austin Police and Fire departments remain ongoing, with an emphasis on social distancing.

The Austin Police Department has made the most changes. Its September class of 55 people is now learning policies and criminal law virtually.

“We have instructors in the academy that are actually teaching the lesson,” said Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. “All of our cadets are logged in, and they are able to watch the lesson, interact with each other, and ask questions.”

Manley says this will only be feasible until June, when officers will need to go through firearms and defensive tactics training.

How local first responders will adapt to the coronavirus has been a frequent question for KXAN Investigators.

A spokesperson with the Austin Fire Department says concerns about physical distancing are valid, but that the department has adapted and its training campus is very large.

The spokesperson said the cadets are using physical distancing, self-monitoring, masks, and temperature checks twice per day.

“Training exercises have been adapted where necessary but no one is in close quarters,” she said.

No AFD cadets have tested positive for covid-19.

Chief Manley says two APD employees have tested positive for the virus: a community police officer and a civilian employee.

Public Safety Commission Chair Meghan Hollis this week asked whether cadets will be trained differently if the virus remains a threat in the future.

“I think we have to balance the need for having officers on the ground, officers in place, and officers coming up,” said Hollis.

Facing grim economic projections due to the coronavirus, we reported that Austin may revisit whether to hire 30 new police officers or fund three new fire stations.

KXAN Investigator Kevin Clark will have a full report tonight at 6.

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