AUSTIN (KXAN) — Some Austin City Council members want more robust and frequent data from the Austin Police Department.
Council approved a resolution Thursday that asks the police department to post monthly data on its portal in the future, including the following:
- Demand for police services, including call type, priority level, how fast a unit arrived and number of officers for every call
- Mental health services, including a list of mental health calls resulting in serious bodily injury or death
- Supply of police services, including number of personnel, overtime hours worked and number of retirements each month
The City of Austin will come back to City Council before the end of the year to discuss the reality of staffing and implementing the resolution. During Thursday’s meeting, the interim police chief said the department doesn’t currently have the systems or staff to fulfil the request.
“There are various operating systems that we have that do not currently communicate with one another and so they don’t naturally draw that information and can align it with the items that are being asked and that’s going to be either manpower heavy or software heavy,” said Interim Police Chief Robin Henderson.
Council Member Mackenzie Kelly was the lone ‘no’ vote, saying she’s for transparency, “however, the resolution that was brought before us today by Council Member Vela, in my opinion, was very prescriptive and as such it occurred to me that it would take a lot of resources and people power in order to fulfil the request within that resolution.”
The data would be published on the city’s existing Open Data Portal starting in March 2024 and would include data for the previous 36 months. It would be updated monthly, if implemented as written.
According to the author of the resolution, Council Member Chito Vela, it could help guide policy decisions on things like staffing shortages, response times and mental health calls.
“I want our public safety conversation to be data driven, I don’t want it to be driven by anecdotes, or you know, the horrible thing that happened last weekend, I want to talk about larger trends,” Vela said.
An assistant professor of law at the University of Texas Austin said compared to many other departments, APD is actually ahead when it comes to data. But also said council and the public having more information to make policy decisions is a net positive.
“The city council has been issuing various resolution over the years expanding Austin’s data collection and so the department already publishes a lot of data about stops, use of force incidents, calls for service,” Maria Ponomarenko said. “This is really just an expansion of that data collection effort.”