AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department presented the changes it has made and is making to its training academy before Austin City Council Tuesday afternoon. Council was also briefed on the city’s latest outside review of the academy.

That review included a list of more than two dozen recommendations for big changes like hiring a new training specialist and transitioning to a blended civilian and police-led academy. APD agreed to making all of the changes recommended.

Austin City Council originally voted in August to cancel all cadet classes until at least this summer to allow time for complete review and overhauling of the police department.

However, in December, Mayor Steve Adler and several council members expressed a desire to move up the 144th cadet class to the spring, due to an increasing number of officer retirements and resignations.

Currently, there are 92 vacant officer positions within APD. However, on Tuesday, city staff said for Austin’s population, it’s estimated the city is actually about 250 officers short of where it should be.

In Tuesday’s council briefing, APD outlined the changes it has already made, is in the process of making and any future changes it is planning on to address equity issues in how new officers are trained during the eight-month-long police academy.

Some of the biggest changes department leaders are in the process of making include:

  • Hiring new leadership, some of whom are civilian, so those doing the training are from inside and outside the department.
  • Putting an emphasis on service by requiring cadets to spend nearly a full work week volunteering and getting to know the community.
  • Introducing a new course on the history of policing and race in Austin.
  • Setting up a internal review panel made of community members who will observe the next cadet class and suggest more changes for future classes.
  • Doing away with punishments and humiliating tactics that create a boot camp-like atmosphere in the academy and replacing that with more team-building activities and learning that is focused on being guardians of the community, while still being prepared in self defense.
  • Bringing in more diverse adjunct instructors until more diverse instructors can be hired permanently, along with a number of community members with diverse viewpoints, to help teach courses.

“Any course that can be co-taught, we will be doing that,” said Assistant Police Chief Troy Gay.

Chief Brian Manley had Gay present the department’s changes and plans moving forward, because Manley is retiring soon, and Gay will help carry on the mission after he leaves the department.

So far, Gay says APD is working with about 15 different community organizations that will help teach cadets.

Manley says all of the goals mentioned above will be reached soon.

“We do expect to complete each one of those recommendations in the month of April,” Manley told city leaders.

City leaders agreed they need a little more time to review the recommendations and plans for APD moving forward. They have not yet decided on an approximate date for when the next cadet class may begin, implementing the changes made so far.

Manley told city leaders once they give the okay to resume cadet classes, it will take about four to six weeks before the department is ready to begin its 144th cadet class.