AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department plans to move 95 officers from specialty units — including Park Patrol, Narcotics, DWI Enforcement, Organized Crime, and Gangs — to patrol as part of its adjustment to budget cuts imposed by the Austin City Council, according to KXAN sources and an internal document detailing the transition.
APD posted an unlisted YouTube video on Thursday in which Chief Brian Manley outlined the upcoming changes. The process to move some specialty unit officers to patrol takes effect on Jan. 17, 2021, though some will begin back-filling patrol positions on Sept. 27 as part of a plan an APD spokesperson said is unrelated to the reorganization.
The backfill rotation lasts four months, meaning some of the officers may not return to a specialty unit position.
“We’re just in a position where we’re having to make tough decisions,” Manley said in the video. “We know that you will likely be working, potentially, in a different part of the city, working different hours than you’re used to working, and definitely working in a different operation going back to patrol.”
“All of this is impactful on your life, and we recognize that.”
The Austin City Council approved a 2020-21 city budget that will move $150 million from APD to other areas of public health and safety over the course of the next year. Canceled cadet classes, cuts to overtime, and the elimination of unfilled positions accounted for $20 million.
Currently-occupied sworn positions were not cut by the Austin City Council, but vacant positions have provided APD additional funding for overtime.
“I know they’re having a very difficult time,” Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said, noting some specialty unit officers are highly-trained. “It’s a slap in their face, because it’s something that they work hard for but we do all know as police officers that the backbone of the police department is patrol.”
KXAN requested the list of impacted specialty units referenced by Manley in the video to staff. It lists a total of 150 officer reassignments, including:
- A special unit of 31 officers patrolling the city’s parks would be disbanded and handled by normal patrol.
- A street gangs unit would be dissolved.
- The number of officers in a unit to combat drunk driving would be cut in half.
- Four units of “district representatives” whose goal is to build community relationships would also be transferred into patrols.