Texas city on 'unsustainable path'; police officer shortage leaves whole section unpatrolled

Austin, Texas City Hall by is licensed under YouTube
AUSTIN, TX - Austin, the capital of Texas, had an entire section of the city unpatrolled by even a single officer of the Austin Police Department (APD) for several hours on Saturday, according to Austin Police Association President Michael Bullock. The union president blamed the city's ongoing staffing shortage that began in March 2023 with officers quitting the force en masse.

Taking to X on Saturday, Bullock shared the troubling report that the entirety of an aastern Austin sector was totally unpatrolled for two hours, noting that the APD backfill shift composed of detectives and specialty units had to pick up the slack. 

"Staffing woes continue," he wrote. "Due to our staffing being at 2006 levels, an entire sector in East Austin went two hours without a patrol officer assigned to the sector today. Our backfill shift made up of detectives and specialized units pulling double duty had to provide coverage."

Bullock pointed directly to the "staffing woes" that have beset the department, with the APD being reduced to 2006 staff levels when its population was a quarter million less. 

While he told Fox 7 Austin that the Saturday patrol lapse was "not normal" and that the department would under normal circumstances have "anywhere from 10 to 14 officers that might be available or working that particular time," no indication was given as to how or why the patrol gap occurred.

As observed by Fox News, Bullock had criticized the city just days before when the downtown dayshift was suddenly undermanned because four of the six assigned officers were pulled away to perform guard duty for the city council. He wrote, "Were you downtown today and needing police but no one responded? Our downtown dayshift had only 6 officers and 4 got pulled to go guard city council. So only 2 officers were available to answer 9-1-1 calls. Officers want to help Austinites - the City wants body guards."

Bullock told the outlet that the department is undermanned by about 500 officers compared to past staffing levels and 700-800 officers under the staffing levels called for in city studies. He added that the situation has escalated to the point that it is now "extremely difficult for us to continue to re-arrange our department to meet the needs of our community." 

"We are starting to see more and more examples of the consequences of short staffing," he said.

Per the report from Fox, Bullock could run the downward trend back to a City Council vote to defund the police department in August 2020 at the height of the BLM/George Floyd riots, and then refusing to renew the police contract in 2023. As reported by the DC Enquirer, in May 2023, the staffing shortfall at that point had already reached 300 vacancies despite an approved APD budget of $443.1 million.

The situation led to non-violent calls to the police being routed to 311, per then-president 
Thomas Villarreal, who told The New York Post, “If you come home and find your home burglarized, calls like that are now going to 311. You’re not getting a police response to many property crimes if it’s not a violent crime that is currently ongoing.”

Speaking to Fox, Bullock summarized, "The negative actions by prior councils and elected officials have gotten us to this point where we are in crisis mode trying to just respond to 9-1-1 calls. We’ve disbanded units, mandated that detectives pull double duty not only investigating their cases but also responding to 9-1-1 calls, consolidated shifts, and more. We have bent over backwards trying to keep our city safe because we care about the people who visit and call Austin home, but we can only bend so much before breaking."

He added with finality, "The bottom line is we are on an unsustainable path."
For corrections or revisions, click here.
The opinions reflected in this article are not necessarily the opinions of LET
Sign in to comment


Powered by StructureCMS™ Comments

Get latest news delivered daily!

We will send you breaking news right to your inbox

© 2024 Law Enforcement Today, Privacy Policy