AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council will vote Thursday on a plan to reinstate the city’s police training academy by early June.
On Tuesday, city leaders heard from City Manager Spencer Cronk, who created a blueprint for restarting cadet classes. The blueprint lays out necessary changes that must be made before the academy starts, such as finalizing replacements for outdated and problematic training videos and bringing in a variety of community members to help teach courses.
The Greater Austin Crime Commission says new cadets are desperately needed, as the Austin Police Department will have more than 100 vacant officer positions by the end of this month. The commission’s executive director, Cary Roberts, points to increasing crime rates and slower police response times over the past year.
“Last year, murder was up 42%, arson up 31%, auto theft, 31%, aggravated assaults, up. So, in response, times were slower again, and traffic fatalities increased,” Roberts said.
Roberts added, “What’s really interesting is that Austin now has fewer officers than were authorized a decade ago. Since 2011, the city has grown by more than 150,000 people, and so that’s comparable to leaving a population the size of Round Rock without police.”
Roberts says he believes a fresh, diverse class in June with cadets who have already been recruited and are waiting for their chance to begin will help provide the change within APD’s culture the community seeks.
“We expect this to be the most diverse, not only training staff that the Austin Police Department’s ever had, but the most diverse cadet class the police department’s ever had,” he said.
In Tuesday’s discussion, Cronk told council members even if his proposal passes Thursday, APD will still have to meet the dozens of requirements in the plan before the start of June, or the academy would not start.
APD has already implemented many of the changes, however, and is in the process of implementing others.