This week, the Austin City Council unanimously voted to slash the police department’s budget by $150 million. The Texas capital became the fourth city in the nation and the first in the state of Texas to cut funding to its law enforcement agency amid widespread debate over police brutality.
The decision comes as the Austin Police Department (APD) is the subject of criticism related to the death of Mike Ramos and its use of force against Black Lives Matter protesters. Similar criticism has been leveled against police departments across the country. But the share of the APD’s budget that was cut is one of the largest percentages that was decreased in the nation so far this year.
The new measure will slash one third of the APD’s entire budget, it also calls for an immediate cut of $21.5 million from the agency to be reallocated to provide funding for abortion access programs, food access, and violence prevention. “This moment has been born out of a lot of hurt in the community,” city council member Greg Casar said at a Thursday meeting. “We know we have a long way to go.”
The proposal would eliminate funding from three police cadet classes despite the fact that Austin’s police department is severely understaffed. The city council indicated that it may allow some classes to start in fiscal year 2021 if APD develops a revised curriculum and create a “more appropriate recruitment program.”
This measure would also take $80 million in cuts to go civilian functions such as support services, forensic sciences, and other departments. Another $50 million will be given to a “Reimagine Safety Fund” that will provide funding for “alternative forms of public safety and community support through the yearlong reimagining process.”
APD will also start fiscal year 2021 without any unfilled sworn positions due to the budget cuts, which eliminates 150 vacant roles.
Gov. Greg Abbot lambasted the city council’s decision on Thursday, vowing that the Texas Department of Public Safety would “stand in the gap” to protect Austinites until the state legislature could deal with the issue in the next session. “Austin’s decision puts the brave men and women of the Austin Police Department and their families at greater risk, and paves the way for lawlessness,” he explained in a released statement. “Public safety is job one, and Austin has abandoned that duty.”
Attorney General Ken Paxton also chimed in, arguing that the Austin City Council’s vote was a “political haymaker driven by the pressures of cancel culture” amid a push fight a rise in violent crime. “In light of rising violent crime rates in many cities across the country as well the majority of Austinites opposing defunding police, the mayor and the city council should immediately reconsider this ill-advised effort at virtue signaling; which will endanger lives and property in Austin,” he asserted.
Mackenzie Kelly, a conservative who is running for city council, told RedState that, “In any city public safety should be paramount. By cutting the police budget Austin’s city Council is telling the world that public safety doesn’t matter and that they don’t care about the people that live here or the brave men and women who have selflessly sworn to protect us.”
Progressive activists in Austin won an easy victory this week. The city council, which doesn’t include a single conservative member, is essentially using the government to make the objectives of the far left into a reality. As of now, there are only two right-leaning candidates vying for a seat on the city’s legislature.
If the GOP can’t win more influence in Austin’s government, this could be just the beginning of the radical changes that progressives want for the city. The fact that Gov. Abbott is stepping in is a positive sign but the state can only do so much to curb the far-left agenda. Change will only come when the progressive monopoly on power in the government is broke.
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