Neighborhood Network

April 13, 2023

Dear Neighbor,

The Central Texas Public Safety Commission believes Mayor Kirk Watson’s recently announced agreement with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is a lesson in leadership. We also thank the city council and Interim City Manager Jesús Garza for supporting the partnership. Our local and state leaders put political differences aside to develop a plan that will reduce crime and ultimately provide greater safety to the citizens and families of our community—at no cost to the city.

This agreement allows state troopers to support our Austin officers. The impact is already noticeable in only two weeks since the partnership began.As of April 8, DPS troopers have: 

  • Made 96 felony custodial arrests
  • Served 62 felony warrants
  • Seized 131,195 grams of methamphetamine
  • Recovered 16 stolen vehicles 
  • Conducted 4,016 traffic stops

Why is this agreement important for our community?

The impact of additional public safety officers is undeniable. More felony arrests and warrants served discourages criminal activity. Removing such a significant amount of methamphetamine from our streets promotes healthier communities. And having public safety officers patrolling and enforcing traffic laws again contributes to safer streets and fewer accidents.

How did we get here? Why did we need immediate help from Texas DPS?

We all know of the tremendous growth of our city. But as our population has grown, the Austin police force has shrunk. The department employs 1,494 officers—127 less than the number authorized fifteen years ago when the city had at least 250,000 fewer residents. The department has 328 operational vacancies.

  • National trends and local politics have exacerbated the police staffing crisis.
  • APD has lost 97 officers (about 30 per month) this year.
  • Five years ago, APD lost less than seven officers per month.
  • APD’s most recent cadet class started with just 34 cadets.
  • With such small cadet classes, it will be impossible to keep up with resignations and retirements.

Austin police officers are overburdened, and working long, understaffed shifts, adding more tension to their daily jobs. This tension can affect how they function and make decisions in cases of emergency and complicated situations.

The ongoing officer shortage also affects department morale, performance, and individual good intentions toward the community. That is why getting support from DPS helps our first responders regroup, serve the community better, and focus on recruiting and training.

We do not expect this brief partnership to operate without flaws, but we can focus on improvement and the greater good that comes from it.

We are grateful to the state leadership and DPS officers who have taken on the additional responsibility of serving our great city. We also want to thank Police Chief Joseph Chacon and the Austin Police Department for their hard work in facilitating this partnership.

What’s next?

There is no timeline for the Austin Police Association and the City of Austin to resume the labor agreement bargaining. The police contract expired March 31, and negotiations are not expected to resume until after the May police oversight proposition ballot.

During the next month, we urge you to call city leaders, social justice groups, and the police association. Ask them to be flexible and work in the community’s interest to reach an agreement regardless of the outcome of the oversight proposition ballot.

No perfect agreement exists, but any contract that invests in the resources and personnel necessary to ensure the safety of our community is what ultimately makes this city better for all Austinites, present and future. Together we can make a difference.