AUSTIN, Texas — The 141st and 142nd Austin Police Department (APD) cadet classes graduated on Friday. The graduation adds 67 officers to an understaffed police department.
Chief Brian Manley said ahead of the graduation there were 189 positions open at the department. While the new grads bring that number down to 122, Manley said there's still a clear need for more officers in Austin.
Manley announced last week the APD would be increasing staffing downtown, to deter crime with increased police presence. He said that could come at the cost of paying officers overtime to make sure positions are filled.
"It is very important at this time, especially given the challenges that we're seeing with crime issues and disorder issues and the like, that we not slow down the process of filling the vacancies in the police department," said Manley.
Manley said the department is still recruiting and close to filling the spots for the June cadet class even though it may be delayed.
The APD faces an audit of its cadet classes and investigations into allegations of racism and misconduct. The audit must be completed by June 2020 or else the cadet class beginning that month will be delayed. The February class will continue as scheduled.
"Even with the challenges we face today, with recent reports of issues that we're going through, we will get through," said Manley. "The fact that the reputation is such that we have men and women leaving their careers, coming from other states, I think further drives home that message that this is a police department the community can trust and should trust."
KVUE spoke with two cadets ahead of Friday's graduation.
Julian Rodriguez was an officer in Chicago for four years. He said he chose to come to the APD because of "the culture of policing that they've built here."
Manley said APD works to have a department that is just as diverse as Austin.
"This class in and of itself is very diverse," said Manley, noting a high amount of female officers.
Marisa Giglio, a former federal officer in Maryland, said she hopes to be a female role model in the community.
"That's something that is extremely important to me. I think seeing females in male-dominated fields is just really cool to see. Especially, we have a ton of females graduating, and it's cool to see where they all have come from," said Giglio. "We have scientists, lawyers, military women, and seeing them go out there and be really great role models – being intelligent, but also strong – I think it's really, really cool to see."
Giglio said it's an honor to work at the APD.
"It's the most fulfilling thing I've ever done, and I'm only a cadet," she said.
While the 67 cadets graduated, they won't hit the streets just yet.
"They’re not going to be on patrol next week. They're going to be back in the classroom," said Manley. "They're going to be undergoing 40 hours of additional mental health training, and this is part of the commitment we made to this community that we will put all our officers through the advanced mental health training that previously only our CIT officers went through."
The additional hours of training will add on to the 40 hours the cadets have already completed.
The move for 80 hours of mental health training for all officers comes after a 2018 audit found that while APD mental health training met state requirements, it could still use improvements.
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