The Austin Police Department’s 145th cadet class starts Monday. More than eighty are expected to begin the training academy. A transitional training program for current police officers is scheduled for July and another regular academy for the fall. The Austin Police Department has 195 operational vacancies.
The first phase of an Austin Police Department staffing research project funded by the Central Texas Public Safety Commission was released in January. The groundbreaking staffing model recommended 108 patrol positions to achieve a target response time of six and a half minutes for urgent and emergency calls. Phase II is underway to model investigative and specialized units, including investigations. Preliminary findings are due in late spring, with the final report released in mid-July.
Tomorrow, the Austin City Council will consider Items 13, 14, and 34 to authorize $27 million to renovate the former municipal building at 124 West 8th Street for a downtown community court. Businesses, property owners, and residents have raised concerns about inadequate community input during the site selection process. In an editorial yesterday, the Austin American-Statesman recommended the city council postpone the vote to consider an alternative site and “gather more public input.”
Does the community have enough information about how the downtown court will operate? Other cities have taken innovative approaches to community courts that handle misdemeanors, including camping ordinance violations. Should funds be committed to a site renovation before decisions are made about how to provide coordinated assessment and services?
Nineteen Austin police officers were indicted last month on felony charges related to riots during the summer of 2020. Last week, defense lawyers for eight of the police officers filed a motion to compel the district attorney to disclose the names of grand jury witnesses as required by the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The indictments did not disclose this information. Travis County District Attorney José Garza should step aside and ask the court to appoint a special prosecutor for these cases to ensure public confidence in the process.
We often take public safety for granted. When you see Central Texas first responders, thank them for keeping the community safe during extreme weather this week and recent special events.
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