AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department gained 42 new officers Friday.
The 143rd Austin Police Cadet Class graduation marked the last time a new class of officers will be hired in the near future, following the city’s move to cancel all cadet academies through June 2021.
The 143rd Cadet Class was already underway when city leaders made that decision.
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley says the class that graduated Friday showcases the diversity APD has sought to recruit. However, in August, the Austin Police Association said the 144th class, which was canceled by city leaders, would have been the most diverse group of police recruits in the department’s history, with a majority of minority cadets for the first time.
From March to September of this year, 75 Austin Police officers retired or resigned.
KXAN compared the number of resignations and retirements from March through July of this year to those same four months over the past five years.
In 2020, there were 53 total, 13 of whom resigned and 37 of whom retired. That number is more than double some of the previous years during that time span.
In March through July of 2015, 11 officers resigned and 20 retired. In 2016 during those months, four resigned and 21 retired. In 2017, eight resigned and 17 retired during that time. In 2018, 19 resigned and 13 retired. And, in 2019, three resigned and 18 retired during those months.
“We have many vacancies we’ve been trying to fill, and these officers will help in that effort,” said Police Chief Brian Manley ahead of Friday’s cermony. “Our goal as always is to maintain enough officers on patrol so that we can meet our response times and that the officers can safely patrol the community, and that the community knows if they call 911 there will be an officer to respond. It’s difficult to meet those needs with the dwindling number of officers that we have and with the higher attrition rate as we see officers leave. With the uncertainty of when our next cadet class will begin, it’s even more important that we have this class graduating, today.”
Former NYPD officer Carolina Benavides was part of the class that graduated Friday. She said she understands the challenges she’s facing as she begins patrol for APD.
“Shortages are going to be making everything more difficult. There’s just less people. The times might be taking longer to get to certain calls and things like that, but we’re going to do our best. We’ve been trained well,” Benavides said.
Benavides says she feels called to policing to help people. As a Latina woman, she says she hopes she can show those she interacts with in the community that she doesn’t discriminate and won’t judge them by their outward appearances.
“That’s what they need to do with us, as well,” she said. “Each individual officer is an individual, and you can’t just judge me just because I wear a uniform. You don’t know my reasons for taking this job, and I’m really trying to do the right thing and serve my community.”