AUSTIN, TEXAS (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department is mourning the loss of two seasoned officers who died of COVID-19 this week.
“You know this is just an incredibly tragic moment,” said Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon. “This comes right on the heels of another senior officer who died in a car crash earlier this month.”
Sergeant Steve Urias is the latest Austin police officer who has died from COVID-19. He served 31 years with the department and was just months away from retirement.
Seven-year veteran Randolph Boyd succumbed to the virus one day before him.
“Both of these officers serve honorable with the police department, and I can’t express how terribly they’re going to be missed,” said Chacon.
Chief Chacon wasn’t able to say whether or not both of these officers were fully vaccinated. Right now, vaccines aren’t required for staff and officers inside the department.
“We are not talking about the vaccine requirement. What we are doing is following the city guidelines on the mask mandate in all city facilities,” said Chacon. “That’s really a consideration, I think, that would need to happen at the city management level for all city employees, obviously not just the police department.
Officers inside the department are both mentally and physically trying to process the loss of their fellow officers.
“It’s rare to lose an officer on the line, and in a matter of a month, we’ve now lost three. It takes a toll on us,” said Sgt. Michael Crumrine.
Sgt. Michael Crumrine had a hard shake with COVID-19, months ago.
“The recovery was challenging, it was anxiety-provoking at times,” said Crumrine. “It’s certainly not something I would want to do again.”
The running number is 40 officers out sick due to COVID. It’s adding to the staffing stress for the department already short on officers since cadet classes were on hold in June.
“We’re having to try and fill in these voids and stay safe while still doing our jobs,” said Crumrine.
Austin Public Health said during a COVID press conference Friday that they are working on a budget to roll out a vaccine incentive program for city employees in the coming months.
Chief Chacon estimated that 40-50% of Austin Police Officers have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.