Austin Police Department Struggles with Staffing Shortfall, Causing Delays in Emergency Responses
As the staffing problem continues to strain resources to the breaking point—sometimes putting calls on hold for hours—the Austin, Texas police department may soon make significant adjustments to how the nation’s capital is policed.
As a result of the department’s shortage of officers, according to Austin’s FOX 7, Michael Bullock, the president of the police association, has stated that officers are nearly halving their availability to react to 911 calls.
As Bullock told the station, “We’re about to hit a critical point.”
After 40 officers filed for retirement last year, the department was in danger of going bankrupt due to a 9–2 vote by the city council to pursue a 1-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.
President Dennis Farris of the Austin Retired Officers Association stated at the time that the matter at hand was not money but rather the respect—or lack thereof—that they were receiving from the town council.
Just 75 of the more than 160 policemen the agency lost over the previous year, according to Bullock.
Consolidating shifts may be the solution, he told the station, adding that “allocating what few resources we have to where it’s the most effective” is currently the top priority.
Approximately ten officers serve a shift in each of the city’s nine sectors when they are staffed. To improve response, the station stated that the shifts frequently overlap during peak times.
Bullock says that’s not the case, though. “Right now, most evening shifts are showing up at around 4 p.m., four officers that might be able to show up, and there are some I know that are at two, and I know there are shifts that have shown up with one officer,” he explained.
Ineffective community service is occurring in addition to the cops’ lack of safety.
“There will be 15 or 20 calls that are holding, that officers have not been able to get to, and they’ve been holding for 2, 4, 10 hours,” Bullock was quoted as saying.
Bullock stated that the reason the city’s crime statistics have not much changed from prior years is because the police department and its officers are “going above and beyond” to fulfill staffing requirements, cover shifts, and combine schedules.
As to Bullock, the department is responding to calls reactively rather than proactively.
“The changes that are having to come right now are indicative of the staffing crisis and the overall public safety situation that we’re dealing with here in Austin,” added the mayor.
A rapid exodus of officers resulted from the August 2020 vote by the Austin City Council, led by then-Mayor Steve Adler, to eliminate the APD’s funding by almost a third. The money was discontinued and cadet classes were canceled, but the department was still far short of the recommended staffing level despite the Texas legislature passing a statute that effectively forced the city to restore that funds the next year.
The report was authored by Andrew Mark Miller from Fox News Digital.