AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin Police Department is struggling to keep officers and fill vacancies.
The APD currently has 1,534 officers on the force – down 65 officers from year ago, even though the City of Austin allocated for 1,812 officers in 2022.
“It’s not in our best place,” Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said.
According to Chacon, 167 officers have resigned or retired within the last year. He said the department had more than 1,900 officers just a few years ago.
“It's not going to be a quick fix by any means. Because I continue, you know, to the normal attrition, to lose officers every single month,” Chacon said, adding, “It’s tough to be a police officer now in this city and the country. It’s always been a tough job, but officers have been under the microscope more than ever.”
Chacon said being down officers has forced adjustments within the department.
“The toughest time right now is on patrol. I even have, right now, detectives and officers and corporals and they're coming in, I am putting them back on the patrol," Chacon said. "I have had to take a few of my services that we would normally offer as a policing agency, such as our motors unit and our DWI unit and others, offline to get those officers back into our patrol cars and answering 911 calls.”
The political action group Save Austin Now pushed for Proposition A a year ago, with the goal of bumping APD staffing to two officers for every 1,000 residents in Austin.
“We worked for five or six months to collect the petitions, put down the ballot and raise the money. Ultimately, they rejected it,” co-founder Matt Mackowiak said.
Mackoviack supports police and said as Austin continue to grow, the city needs more officers.
“We have global events like ACL and South by Southwest and F1. It is a dire situation [that] we don’t have enough police officers for our residents to feel safe," Mackoviack said.
Chacon said the APD is working to fill 278 vacancies, recruiting at college campuses and jobs fairs. The department also currently has three cadet classes, with two graduating soon.
“I have 55 in one and then I have eight in the other, so that's a total of 63 officers right there that'll be coming out in November," Chacon said. "The 147th [class] won't graduate yet, which is our newest class. [They] won't graduate until next year, and I currently have 51 people in that in that class."
All cadets receive mental health training. While on the force, they also go through de-escalation training.
“We have the ICAT training, which is de-escalation training, dealing with people in mental health crises. So, yes, a lot of training is going on right now in the department," Chacon said.
Chacon said that despite the challenges, he is proud to be chief of police in Austin.
“This is a department that deals with integrity and courage every single day," Chacon said.
He hopes that APD can bring more officers to the force in the future and someday reach that 2,000 officers goal.
"I have got to have bigger classes, and I have got to put them through as quick as I can," Chacon said.
PEOPLE ARE ALSO READING: