Thirty officer positions will be added to the Austin Police Department, following City Council’s approval of the city budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year Tuesday.
APD Chief of Staff Troy Gay said APD currently has over 100 vacancies within the department. He said APD plans to fill these vacancies and add the extra 30 officers approved by City Council within the next 18 months.
“Our department has implemented and established a very robust recruiting and training schedule that we have provided to (City) Council,” Gay said. “These positions will be recruited throughout this fiscal year and (we) anticipate (them) to be within our department in the (2020-2021) fiscal year.”
Gay said while 20 of the new officers will be patrol officers, other positions include supervisors, corporals and detectives. He said APD will begin the process of filling those positions Oct. 1, but the officers will not be on the streets right away.
“As with any growing department and city with (hundreds) of new residents coming into the metroplex area, safety is critical,” Gay said.
Gay said APD has not yet established where the 20 patrol officers will be stationed, but there is potential they could be in West Campus, Riverside or North Campus.
“It could be that they are equally spread throughout the city, or if we’re having a rise in crime in one particular area then we may have more officers go to a particular area,” Gay said. “But (it) is a little bit too early to really establish where those positions will go.”
Gay said it is important for the recruitment process to begin as soon as possible since the 20 patrol officers will have to go through the police training academy, which typically takes eight months. The remaining positions will be promoted from within the department.
“Our department is committed not only to safety but also our residents feeling safe,” Gay said. Sukyi McMahon, board chair and director of operations at the Austin Justice Coalition, said she believes the money going towards the new positions could be directed elsewhere. The coalition is a grassroots organization advocating for political involvement and criminal justice reform, according to their website.
“Our stance has always been that we’d like to do better before we do more at APD,” McMahon said. “There are just different areas that can be invested in that are public safety issues but don’t necessarily need to involve the police.”
McMahon said a larger mental health response is needed in Austin, and it does not necessarily have to involve police presence.
Nursing freshman Alondra Barquera said she would like to see more officers patrolled in areas near campus where manystudents live and work.
“Just to see more policemen around, I (would) feel secure and know that if something does come up, (I) would feel safe having someone right there,” Barquera said.