Nov 14, 2022 - News

Austin Police Department struggles to fill vacancies

Illustration of a police uniform standing with no person inside it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Austin Police Department vacancies are continuing to climb amid staffing shortages in the city's 911 call center.

Why it matters: How to approach public safety remains a lightning rod in the post-George Floyd era, with Austinites divided about police spending.

Between the lines: The city and the police union are at an impasse over civilian oversight and pay as negotiations over a new police labor contract have become contentious.

By the numbers: Police Chief Joe Chacon told KVUE that APD has 1,534 officers on the force, down 65 officers from one year ago.

  • The department allocated for 1,812 officers in 2022, even though it had more than 1,900 officers just a few years ago.
  • Meanwhile, 167 officers have resigned or retired within the last year, Chacon told KVUE.

What they're saying: Chacon said the shortages mean that detectives and corporals are put back on patrol.

  • "It's not going to be a quick fix by any means," Chacon told KVUE.
  • "It's tough to be a police officer now in this city and the country. It's always been a tough job, but officers have been under the microscope more than ever."

Flashback: City leaders have yet to find a solution for the department. Last year, Austin voters rejected Proposition A, which would have put more cops on the street.

  • City finance officials said Prop A would have cost as much as $600 million over five years, and critics of the measure said it would not have provided comprehensive public safety reform in the wake of George Floyd's death.
  • Prop A opponents also said spending more on law enforcement would take away from other city programs.

Meanwhile: Austin's 911 call center also continues to struggle with vacancies, which have led to an increase in wait times for callers.

  • This month, nearly 74% of calls have been answered within 15 seconds — an increase from roughly 65% in October — according to data APD provided to Axios.
  • The call center has 46 vacancies, down from roughly 70 openings in October.

What's next: How police funding and labor negotiations spin out could depend on whom Austin elects as its next mayor, which will be determined in a Dec. 13 runoff election.


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