Report: More civilians, APD officers needed to build community policing

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Austin Police Department needs to clarify its philosophy when it comes to practicing proactive or community policing, a new consultant’s report recommends. The final Matrix Consulting Group report makes 61 specific recommendations to accomplish that strategy including putting more officers on the front line and adding more civilian staff to deal with low priority and non-emergency calls.

The report also recommends shrinking the number of District Representative officers in each of the four regions and replacing them with 12 civilian Community Services Officers (CSO), which would free up a dozen District Representative officers to return to patrol duties.

Additionally, the report also calls for the department to create positions for 66 officers and eight corporals beyond what has already been authorized, and to add an average 17 new officer positions over the next four years. Finally, the report calls for adding four officers to the Motorcycle Unit.Limited uncommitted time

Among the key findings, patrol officers have limited opportunities to be more proactive and engage community members. In fact, during any given shift an officer has only 17-19 percent uncommitted time between calls to actually ‘meet and greet’ community members, such as store keepers and residents. Typically, for community policing to be effective, the report’s authors suggest so-called ‘proactivity’ levels need to be closer to 35 to 45 percent

In a letter dated Wednesday to the Austin City Council, Assistant City Manager Ray Arellano writes, “full implementation of Matrix’ recommendations would require significant investment.” Currently, the city has taken a phased approach to increasing staffing at APD in FY 2017. Included in the City Manager’s proposed FY 2017 budget are 12 new sworn positions and 21 new civilian positions to transition existing sworn employees back to patrol activities. This proposal takes into consideration time for APD to develop performance targets and metrics in collaboration with the community and mitigates the budget impact of implementing the Matrix recommendations.

The authors of the report will appear at an Aug. 17 council budget workshop to answer questions.

KXAN News reported APD is in a hiring frenzy to aggressively reduce an officer vacancy rate that hit more than 170 recently. Recently detectives have been asked to work patrol duties to make the up gaps in shifts.

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