AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Austin City Council members work to finalize a new budget for fiscal year 2020-21, they’re considering millions of dollars worth of cuts to policing.
One idea being considered is potentially canceling the Austin Police Department’s November Training Academy cadet classes along with classes planned for next spring and summer.
Millions of dollars used for training new recruits would be reinvested.
“This essentially puts off new hires until we have the right curriculum for training and making sure that we have the tools to improve the culture within our department,” said Austin City Council member Leslie Pool in a budget meeting last week.
In that meeting Police Chief Brian Manley says if APD couldn’t hire any new officers for the next year, staffing levels would go down to what they were in 2012, when Austin’s population was about 100,000 fewer people.
“The staffing implications of moving forward without hiring would be significant on many fronts,” Manley said. “We already do not meet our goals for response times.”
The majority of council members have expressed support of at least canceling November’s class, however some question canceling a whole year’s worth of hiring efforts.
“There are still jobs that we need sworn officers to do based on the way state law is written, and I want to get into a place where we’re not leaving only the officers who are least open to culture shift, are the ones remaining,” said Council member Jimmy Flannigan. “Once we get to a place where the training is good, there’s a lot of value in bringing in new cadets in that training.”
It’s an issue leaders in other large cities like Seattle have pointed out, as well.
“We don’t want to lay off our newest recruits and our newest officers,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan in a press conference last week. “They are our most diverse class ever with 39% of them people of color.”
Seattle’s City Council ultimately voted to cut 100 of its police positions.
Advocates for police reform argue hiring some diverse new officers, doesn’t override the need to overhaul their training, first.
“I think policing is one of the few jobs and institutions in the world that, no matter who you bring in, if you don’t really attack the culture, and, like, the ideology behind policing, it doesn’t matter who you bring in,” said Austin Justice Coalition Director Chas Moore.