AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Police Chief Brian Manley says his top priority is ensuring his department has enough staff to respond to 911 calls.
Manley held a press conference Thursday afternoon, after Austin City Council voted unanimously to adopt the 2020-21 budget.
The new budget moves about $150 million from the Austin Police Department into other areas of public health and safety over the next year. It also halts APD cadet classes while an audit into training materials and revisions to its curriculum are ongoing.
Starting Oct. 1, about $20 million will be immediately reallocated from APD and reinvested into other areas related to public health or safety.
Just hours after the budget adoption, Manley says it’s still fresh, and his department is assessing all of the possible impacts — including reduction in staffing.
Manley says 150 vacant police officer positions would be cut under the new budget, which would set the department back to staffing levels it had in 2015. That 150 includes 70 vacancies cut in the initial proposed budget, plus another 80 cut by Council in the approved budget. With the elimination of these positions, the Austin Police Department is projected to begin FY21 with zero unfilled sworn positions.
Manley says the department’s main goal is to keep the patrol unit fully staffed to respond to 911 calls. To do this, Manley says they’d have to move officers from specialized assignments and other units to patrol. One of the department’s goals is decreasing response times, and Manley says they’re still dedicated to that.
He wants to ensure that “if you call 911, our officers will respond.”
As far as redirecting funds to other areas of public health and safety, Manley says they’re happy to take the help — especially in regards to mental health calls. He says officers may not be the right fit to respond to those situations.
“We have wanted that alternative response,” Manley said.
Uncertainty surrounds the future of those slated to be cadets in July classes. It’s still up in the air on when those classes could be held, Manley says, but the department has reached out to all those cadets individually.
Manley says he understands some of them have sacrificed a lot to become a cadet, with some even relocating to Austin. The department has spoken with those people, he says, and they plan to set some of them up with a temporary job at the department.
As far as the recent strain in relationship between some community groups and APD, Manley says he’s aware of the criticism revolving him and his officers. He says he believes his department has cultivated relationships with the community in the past, but he says he also has to express his concerns over the budget as a leader.
Additionally, Manley says he’s tried to lead a department that advances change, citing the department’s termination of the juvenile curfew and changes to its cite and release policies.
Manley says at the end of the day, the department just wants to serve the community.