The Texas capital city is suffering from a dramatic shortage of police officers resulting in increased response times to 911 calls — often more than 30 minutes. While the city is struggling to find enough officers to answer calls, the mayor’s security detail remains fully staffed and unaffected.
As a way to help have enough officers on the streets, Austin Police will be moving 465 detectives from various units as well as SWAT team members to patrol duties, the local TV station KVUE
reported. Traffic enforcement units had previously been suspended and those officers are currently responding to 911 calls.
The staffing issue stems from decisions made by the Austin City Council which cut millions from the police budget and diverted other supplemental funds into other non-police programs as part of the Defund the Police movement, Fox News reported in 2021, This resulted in the city’s first shortages of officers. The police department is paying double overtime to officers in order to have enough personnel on the streets. However, due to the staffing shortage, the move has not been enough.
Ken Casaday, the president of the Austin Police Officers Association told KVUE that the blame for the critical shortage stems from the actions of the city council since they voted in 2020 to cancel three police academies.
The actions by local politicians have depleted the police force which is supposed to have more than 1,800 police officers. Austin PD is currently staffed with approximately 1,550 officers.
Despite the critical staffing shortage, the city’s Executive Protection Unit which provides security for Austin Mayor Steve Adler and the city manager. Adler, a Democrat, was a vocal opponent of a 2021 city proposition that would provide funding for the hiring of additional police officers.
According to KVUE, on July 15, the city had 868 calls to 911 with an average response time of 37 minutes and 37 seconds, while on July 18, the city had 831 calls to 911 with an average response time of 31 minutes and 53 seconds.
Additionally, according to a post on social media shared by the Austin Police Officers Association, the city is also seeing a shortage of 911 dispatchers.