AUSTIN (KXAN) — Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell is requesting that Texas State Troopers be deployed to areas of Austin within the county following cuts to policing made by the Austin City Council.
In a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott Monday, Gravell expressed concern for the safety of more than 55,000 county residents who live within Austin city limits.
“I am respectfully asking for your help as you are assigning State Troopers to fill in the void in law enforcement in Austin, that you would assign additional Troopers to work with our Williamson County Sheriff, Robert Chody, to protect our Austin area citizens,” Gravell said.
The Austin City Council voted last week to cut $20 million from the APD budget and will work to transition another $130 million in services over the next year outside of police control.
Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody said “Austin politics do impact (Williamson County),” in a post shared on Twitter.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler accused Abbott, and some of the state’s top Republican leaders, of “peddling fear” when the governor outlined a proposal earlier this week that would freeze property tax revenues in cities that defund police.
Adler said it’s wrong to describe actions taken by the Austin City Council as a $150 million cut to police. While $20 million will be cut by closing unfilled positions, limiting some overtime funds and canceling three planned cadet classes, $130 million in services will still exist but outside police control.
Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, who lives in Williamson County and represents part of it in District 6, called Gravel’s request “a lot of sound and fury.”
Of the $20 million cut from the APD budget, some of that money will go toward investments in emergency services, something Flannigan said Williamson County desperately needs.
“There have been days during the pandemic where the closest ambulance to District 6 in Williamson County was at Barton Creek Mall,” Flannigan said. “That’s unacceptable.”
Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long disagreed with the public rebuke of the Austin City Council vote by Gravel.
“It’s a slippery slope when we put things on the agenda to comment on what other local… this is like well, ‘I don’t like something Round Rock City Council did.’ I don’t agree with (the Austin City Council vote), but I don’t agree with the agenda item, either,” she said.
In Abbott’s response to the Austin City Council vote last week, he said the Texas Department of Public Safety will “stand in the gap to protect our capital city.”
KXAN politics reporter John Engel is following this story today and will have a full breakdown tonight at 6 p.m.