AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Association is blaming the city’s reallocation of police funding for continued retirements and resignations within the department.
On Sunday, a post on the association’s Facebook page named one of the latest officers to choose to resign, Officer Lindsay Thorstenson. The post says Thorstenson announced her resignation, because her district representative position in south Austin was cut.
According to a post by the Austin Police Department, Thorstenson took the position as a district representative last fall, after five years of serving on patrol.
The APA says more than 40 officers have resigned and 100 have retired in 2020.
“We normally have about 40 to 50 people retire a year. We’re over 100,” said Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday of 2020. “Normally, we’ll have, you know, a handful of resignations, maybe 10 to 15, and now we’re way over 40.”
Casaday continued, “A lot of it has to do just with the way they feel like they’re being treated by city management and the city council.”
He also attributes officers leaving the department to the nearly 100 positions that are being reallocated from specialized units to help fill vacant patrol shifts.
“Half the District Representatives, half of the DWI team, the entire Parks Unit, portions of Organized Crime Division and portions of our Highway Enforcement,” Casaday said, listing the positions being reallocated.
According to APD, of the original 37 District Representative positions, APD have been reallocated back to patrol to help fill vacant officer positions for the time being.
District Representatives proactively police by developing relationships in the community and tackling problems before they turn into crime.
“You hear constantly, hear even the city council talk about how important community based policing is, and this is really just kind of flushing it down the toilet,” Casaday said.
Casaday says a number of officers who leave APD go to departments in other cities or the FBI Academy. He says others are getting out of policing altogether. He says he’s seen a trend in officers with higher levels of education going back to jobs in the private sector.
“People that have other options are going back to other places,” Casaday said. “The highly educated people with master’s degrees and PhDs are leaving to go to other places where they’re appreciated.”
During a briefing with Austin’s Public Safety commission Monday, APD shared data that showed officers aren’t quite meeting 911 call response time goals. The department’s Chief Data Officer also pointed to an increase in violent crime.
Dr. Jonathan Kringen said aggravated assaults and homicides are up. He also pointed to a trend in more violent crimes involving guns.
“As of the end of October, we were already past the total number of firearm related offenses for 2019,” Kringen said.