Austin police department in crisis amid shortages, 'defund the police' measures

Michael Bullock, President of the Austin Police Association, explained that the city is on the "brink of a disaster."

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA
The city of Austin, Texas is facing massive repercussions following the disastrous "defund the police" movement of 2020.

The Austin Police Department is dealing with a significant staffing shortage, which resulted in an entire neighborhood going unpoliced during a period of time in February. The 911 response times have grown lengthy and residents are outraged.

Michael Bullock, President of the Austin Police Association, told Fox News that the city is on the "brink of a disaster."

"Previous councils and leadership have actively worked against our officers and department, which has now put us in a free-falling staffing crisis," said Bullock. "Twice now we’ve had our contract voted down or it has been allowed to expire. Each year since 2017, we’ve lost more officers than we’ve hired. We had to gut our specialized units and force detectives to work backfill on patrol just to try and respond to 911 calls."

Austin resident Lauren Klinefelter slammed the longer 911 response times and told the network that after she had been involved in a significant car accident in 2022 with her two young children ages 8 and 2, she couldn't get through to a dispatcher.

"We needed an ambulance and some emergency assistance because not only was my car totaled, but my children were both bleeding and visibly injured," she said, recanting the incident.

"I called 911 and, to my surprise, it rang and rang endlessly, only to be routed to a 311 operator for non-emergencies," said Klinefelter.

The Austin mother explained that she was forced to call a ride-sharing service to be transported to the hospital after an hour had passed with no help from emergency responders.

"My children were bleeding and over an hour had passed, so with no other option, we got a Lyft to the hospital and back home. The police never showed up, I was never contacted by anyone to follow up on the incident," she said.

"I understand longer response times in certain situations, but no response at all is scary! Especially when your babies are the ones you are seeking help for. I hope that our city can become safe again and that the police department can fill the empty spots, because if not, God help us all," added Klinefelter.

Following the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, Austin's city council decided to reallocate up to $150 million, or roughly 34 percent of the department's existing budget and put the money toward other services. The vote was unanimous. The Texas Legislature passed a statute last year that forced the city of Austin to reinstate the funds to the police department. However, the staffing crisis still exists.

The department was in danger of experiencing a staffing collapse last year when 40 officers filed for retirement after city council voted to pursue a one-year contract that the police union's board had rejected in favor of a four-year contract that the city had previously agreed to in principle.

The police union president said that because of the council's vote: "Our staffing has been set back at least 15 years and at the same time we’ve dealt with a population growth of over 250,000 new residents. Combine that with a district attorney who has made it very clear that targeting officers and releasing criminals is his priority – not public safety."

Joe Gamaldi, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, eviscerated the council members and Texas Congressional Democrats who supported the defunding of the police, saying that they do not "give a damn about the people in Austin."

"What the Austin city council did was horrific to the community," Gamaldi told Fox News." There is no one left to fill these shortages because the city council treats officers like scum. Now, responses are over 10 minutes for emergency calls. Some districts are left without staff. City council should learn their lesson over violent crime. 2021 was the highest ever for recorded murders and, since then, the murder rate continues to stay close to that high and looks like 2024 will not be any better. People are dying over bad decisions."

In June 2021, Doug Kantor, 25, of New York, was visiting Austin when he was shot dead in the crossfire by two rival gangs. Thirteen other individuals were also injured in the shooting. Kantor's family alleges that Doug would still be alive if the police department hadn't been defunded.

"I found out that the anti-gang task force, along with most of the preventative crime measures, were the ones that were defunded due to prejudicial concerns about the ethnicity of the people being targeted by these factions of the APD," Nick Kantor, who is Doug's brother, told Fox News.

A city spokesperson told the network in a statement that the Austin Police Department "faces some of the most pressing departmental concerns in the organization, particularly in the area of staffing and training." 

"The need for additional resources for APD remains a top priority and the Interim City Manager will be assessing what options are available to the city," the spokesperson said. "The Austin City Council has provided additional support to APD by authorizing significant investments for staffing and specifically retention bonuses as well as approving additional resources related to cadet classes."

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