Austin mayor wants to get back to hiring new police officers sooner than planned

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Mayor Steve Adler and several city council members want to move the next Austin Police Cadet Academy class up to the spring.

A few months ago, city leaders moved to cancel all police cadet classes until at least June 2021. Funding for upcoming cadet classes was also cut.

The latest proposed change comes after the Austin Police Association told KXAN Monday the department is losing a higher number of officers to retirement and resignations this year.

In a city council work session Tuesday, Adler stressed to his colleagues that he wants to see their efforts to “reimagine public safety” and a new tide of officers work together hand in hand.

“It’s my hope that an upcoming class could really be among the change makers and change agents,” Adler said.

The mayor expanded, “I think that future cadet classes make sure that we have that kind of police force and present a real opportunity to make sure we have the kind of police training that we want, and that we create and integrate real cultural change agents onto the force, and we use those cadet classes to improve racial diversity within APD.”

“The quality of course has got to be paramount, but we also need to press forward with all urgency,” said Council Member Leslie Pool, agreeing with the mayor that she wants a spring cadet class.

Other council members, however, raised concerns.

“I think we all are committed and should remain committed to fixing the things that we’ve been told for months aren’t working, and so, I, for one, want to make sure that process is deliberate, isn’t rushed,” said Council Member Greg Casar.

“I don’t think anybody would be willing to make compromises, especially because we’ve been able to witness what the manifestation is when we are not prepared with a fully professional and accountable police department. I would certainly hope that nobody wants to rush a process that’s so important,” said Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison.

Changes to police training won’t be made until the City Manager’s office finishes its review of the issues with current training. The council ordered that following allegations of racism within the department and its leadership.

The review was originally supposed to be done this summer. On Tuesday, the Deputy City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde told council members the City Manager’s office expects to have a report for council by March.

“What I would say to the city manager is ‘let’s get this done. Let’s get the training changes made, so that we have a path as the mayor has suggested,'” said Council Member Ann Kitchen.

However, in addition to training updates, the city would also need to amend its budget for a spring academy.

City Manager Spencer Cronk explained, “because all of the money that had been allocated for these training classes was reallocated by the council in August.

Training academy leaders are ready to go

If the city can direct the department on training changes and provide funding in time for a spring academy, APD recruiting lieutenant Wade Lyons says he and his team will be ready to go.

He says 95 candidates from the canceled fall cadet class are still certified and ready to begin training immediately, and a pool of other applicants isn’t far behind, meaning the department would have about 100 qualified cadets ready to go at any time.

“Everyone that’s on that police cadet eligibility list, all of those candidates, they have completely completed every phase of our APD recruiting process,” Lyons said. “So, at the moment’s notice that we get information that we can move forward with moving those applicants to the training academy, we are 100% ready to do that.”

Lyons says of the new recruits ready to move on to an academy class, 33% are Hispanic, 13% are Black, 5% are Asian and another 3% represents other minorities. That means the department’s current recruits for its next class represent 54% of the entire pool of candidates.

“The diversity within this class, I would say completely beats out what we’ve done in the past,” Lyons said. “We’ve been making strategic steps in advancing our recruitment efforts and the diversity within the department, because it’s very important for our department to be representative of our community.”

Lyons added commanders over training have already been working with city staff to make the training changes that they can and will be able to implement the rest as soon as Cronk directs them.

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