APD Chief Brian Manley, others react to Council budget cuts

Talk 1370 Newsroom
August 13, 2020 - 5:21 pm
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley

AUSTIN (Talk1370.com) -- Following the Austin City Council's decision to cut and reallocate more than $150 million in funding from the Austin Police Department, Police Chief Brian Manley said the department is facing "fundamental changes."

"We are going to see some fundamental changes here at the police department," Manley said in a press conference Thursday afternoon. "With the reduction of 150 police officer positions in the Austin Police Department, we will go back to a staffing level that we were at back in 2015. So this will require some work with me and my team to address that staffing level, so that we can ensure that we provide the highest level of public safety."

Manley said the reduction in staffing will be one of the biggest impacts on the department. "Our patrol has always been our priority - our ability to respond to 911 calls for service, and although we've been challenged over the past couple of years with response times not meeting our goals, we will continue to strive towards meeting those goals and we will ensure that our patrol bureau is staffed accordingly, even with these cuts. This will require us to move officers out of specialized assignments and units, and potentially impact the operations there, but it's important for the community to understand that our patrol functions remain at full staffing at the levels that we're at today, so that we can ensure our ability to respond to those 911 and 311 calls for service."

"If you call 911, our officers will respond," Manley said. "That is one thing I know is the hearts and minds of our police officers, and they are committed to serve this community and I do not expect that to change. And we will ensure that we do everything that we can to ensure that we have adequate resources on patrol to address those calls for service."

When asked whether he had any plans to resign, Manley said he's still digesting the changes that were put forth by council. "This isn't about me or my plans," Manley said. "This is about our community, who needs a police department that can provide them the level of services that they deserve, and it's about the men and women of APD that I am privileged to be with and have spent my career with that deserve a department and a community that supports them."

Community opposition to the changes also voiced their opinions following the vote.

Corby Jastrow, president of the Greater Austin Crime Commission, questioned the decision. "Taxpayer-funded studies have repeatedly shown the Austin Police Department is understaffed for a rapidly growing city," Jastrow said. "Emergency response times are slower. Aggravated assaults, property crimes, robberies, and traffic fatalities were up last year. Violent and property crime also increased significantly downtown and in the entertainment district. If the Austin City Council supports data-driven policy, then the budget should reflect evidence-based decision making."

Travis County GOP Chairman Matt Mackowiak, in a statement, blasted the decision. "As one of the fastest growing cities in America, we should be hiring more police, not cutting their budget by a third," Mackowiak said. "Austin has already witnessed the fastest rate of growth in homicides in the country in recent months. Today’s action is the manifestation of a dream held by Greg Casar, the Workers Defense Project, the Democratic Socialists of America, and their radical fellow travelers. It is time for every good and decent Austinite to rise up and throw these bums out. Public safety is the first priority of every elected official and today’s disgraceful vote shows that the Mayor and the Council want a city that is less safe. And that is what we will get."

Martin Harry, who is running as the Republican candidate for Travis County District Attorney in November, called the decision "irresponsible, reckless, and dangerous" and will lead to an increase in response times and a decrease in community policing practices. "The Council is sacrificing public safety to promote a radical political agenda that calls for the abolition of police and an end to incarceration for offenders," Harry said.

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