Sworn Austin Police Officers To Stop Responding To Non-emergency Calls In Person Amid ‘Dire’ Staffing Crisis

Austin’s sworn police officers will stop responding in person to non-emergency calls starting next week amid severe staffing shortages in the department.

Under this policy, collisions with no injury or burglaries no longer in progress or where the suspect has left, would not warrant a 911 call.

Austin residents in these situations and others like it will have to call 311 and file a non-emergency report.

An APD spokesperson told Fox News that although a sworn police officer might not respond to non-emergency there could be instances where a civilian officer, such as a crime scene technician, responds to a scene to take evidence.

She said the department, “regularly reviews response policies and procedures to ensure APD prioritizes calls with an immediate threat to life or property over non-emergency calls for service.”

“As a result of a recent review of APD’s patrol COVID mitigation protocols initiated in May 2020, recent staffing challenges and aligning with the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force patrol response recommendations, APD will change call routing and response for non-emergency calls for service effective October 1, 2021,” she said.

Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday told Fox News that APD has gone nearly two years without a police academy and does not have enough patrol officers to respond to non-emergency calls.

“Probably about 95% of the time our shifts don’t meet minimum staffing … and that is the reason they’ve started cutting back on what types of calls are answered,” Casaday said.

“It’s not optimal. It’s not providing a quality service to the community,” Casaday said. “But the community also needs to understand that we’re under a dire staffing crisis.”

Austin City Council voted in August 2020 to cut up to $150 million from its police department budget – a little more than a third of its total budget – and reinvest that money into other public services.

The decision came on the heels of a chaotic summer, marked by nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Major cities, including Los Angeles and New York slashed their police department budgets as activists railed against police misconduct.

The department was partially refunded earlier this year, but not all of the units that were cut came back and the funding has yet to kick in. Consequently, the remaining officers have been spread thin.

Austin Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly (District 6) has blamed the staffing crisis on “the previous council’s disastrous actions to reimagine public safety.”

“The officers today are overworked and continue to be short-staffed which leads to increased response times across the city. We need to add additional funding to immediately correct this failure for the safety of our city,” she said.

Charles Wilkison, Executive Director of Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, warned that without more police funding, the staffing crisis will only get worse, and the list of emergency calls that officers won’t be able to respond to will only grow.

“The whimsical reimagining of the police department has normalized violence and murder in a once safe and admired city,” he said.

APD urges people to use iReportAustin.com or call 311 to report crimes that are no longer in progress or when there is no immediate threat to life or property. People should continue calling 911 for emergency calls when there is a threat to life or property, APD said.

From www.news.yahoo.com

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