Advocates call for Austin to take measures to boost APD officer retention rates

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, a group wanting to boost the Austin Police Department’s next budget held a press conference saying the current recommendation by City Manager Spencer Cronk isn’t enough.

Cronk suggested that in Fiscal Year 2022, the Austin Police budget be a record $442 million.

The group Save Austin Now says the budget proposal isn’t a done deal and is still asking people to sign its petition to put an initiative on the November ballot that, if approved, would force the city to “re-fund” the department and make several other changes.

Representatives from the Austin Police Association and the Austin Police Retired Officers Association joined Save Austin Now Monday during a press conference and called on city leaders to add an additional cadet class to the next budget, up from the two Cronk already recommended.

The APA also called on the city to begin offering retention bonuses to all officers to help with the department’s high rate of resignations.

Meanwhile, APA President Ken Casaday says APD plans to begin offering retention bonuses to officers who’ve been with the department long enough to retire.

“Bonuses for people like me that can retire today if I wanted to,” Casaday explained. “To say, ‘If you promise to stay another year, we’ll give you a $5,000 bonus,’ and then do that repetitively to try to get people to stay.”

Casaday says the department may begin offering those retention bonuses to its veteran officers as early as next week. The money to do that will come from the cost savings of vacant positions.

Casaday says APD needs 1,809 officers to be fully staffed and currently only has 1,650. The department estimates another 135 officers will resign or retire by next May when around 85 current cadets will finally begin regular patrol shifts.

To help offset the continued loss, Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon has pitched bringing back some willing officers who’ve retired.

“You’re looking at one who would probably do it,” said Austin Police Retired Officers Association trustee Dennis Farris in Monday’s press conference. “I’ve been retired six years and I’m kind of old. I’d still come do it, because I feel like I need to stand by my brothers and sisters on this 34.”

Farris estimates around 100 others might be willing to come on as reserve officers, too.

“I think it would help with special events,”Farris said. “There’s certain things you’d be able to staff with retired officers who are reserve officers to free up officers to do other things.”

But Farris says such a reserve program that could take months to get going.

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