AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin Police Association claims that police officers are resigning and retiring at a high rate following 2020 budget cuts. We looked at the resignation and retirement data by month and how that compared to 2019.
In a statement posted to Facebook Dec. 6, the APA claimed that, so far in 2020, more than 40 people have resigned and more than 100 officers retired.
The APA followed the claim with a reference to the Austin City Council's vote earlier this year to reallocate funding from the Austin Police Department.
"When you don't get a return phone call about important neighborhood issues, please call your local council member and Mayor (Steve) Adler and let them know that you don't approve of the defunding of the Austin Police Department," the Facebook post stated.
The APA's statistics are half-correct. According to data provided by the Austin Police Department, in 2019, 46 employees retired and 22 resigned, which amounts to a 93% and 100% increase in resignations and retirements from 2019 to 2020, respectively. Forty-four officers and staffers have resigned so far in 2020. The police department said 89 officers have retired, which is not quite as high as the police association claimed.
But those statistics need a little more context, considering that the 2020 racial unrest spiked in the middle of the year and the city council's budget cuts did not take effect until late in the year.
Following George Floyd's death in police custody, racial protests started in Austin on around May 30. From the start of those protests to Dec. 7, 78 police officers and staffers resigned or retired. That's up 111% compared to the same period in 2019, the APD's data showed.
From Oct. 1, 2020, the date the budget cuts went into effect, to Dec. 7, data showed that a total of 22 officers and staffers have resigned or retired this year. That's an increase of 83% compared to the same time frame in 2019.
It is unclear if any of those 2020 resignations and retirements happened due to the budget changes. The APD said the reason for the resignations and retirements is not public, "as it is a part of the employee’s personnel file."
On Aug. 13, city council chopped $150 million from the Austin Police Department's budget, roughly 34% of the department's $434 million total budget. Nearly a fifth of that extra money, or $21 million, will go toward things such as violence prevention and permanent housing services.
"The goal here is to get the police officers focusing on the things that we want them focusing on, like crime. And taking away the responsibility to be our mental health first responders or our social workers," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in an interview with KVUE following the vote.
KVUE's Ashley Goudeau broke down how exactly that money is being reallocated.
In recent months, KVUE has reported a rise in certain crimes in Austin. The September crime report revealed murders and aggravated assaults were up citywide compared to 2019. And the month before, the monthly crime report revealed an increase in burglaries.
Earlier in November, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted a news headline stating that Austin is experiencing its highest number of homicides in 20 years. 2020's 44 homicides is the highest number of homicides in the past 20 years. However, the homicide rate isn't really out of the ordinary, as Austin's population has increased significantly since 2000. Here's an in-depth look at Abbott's claim and the data.
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