The Austin City Council unanimously voted to cut its police department budget by $150 million on Thursday, after officers and the city’s police chief faced months of criticism over a fatal officer-involved shooting, use of force during protests, and the investigation of a demonstrator’s fatal shooting by another citizen.
The proposal to cut police funding by about one-third of its total $434 million budget calls for immediately cutting around $21.5 million from the department, according to a document put together by council members. But city spokesperson Andy Tate said Thursday that the number was closer to $20 million.
These immediate cuts would include eliminating funding from three planned police cadet classes and reallocating funds to areas like violence prevention, food access, and abortion access programs. However, the council said it may allow one or two cadet classes to begin in fiscal year 2021 if a revised curriculum is completed and a "more appropriate recruitment program" is implemented. It will also consider attrition rates, pension impacts and additional funding as factors influencing its decision on cadet classes, Texas Tribune reports.
Another $80 million in cuts would come from a yearlong process that will redistribute money used for civilian functions like forensics sciences, support services and victims’ services to other departments. About $50 million would come from reallocating dollars to a “Reimagine Safety Fund” that would divert money toward “alternative forms of public safety and community support through the yearlong reimagining process.”
The council's proposal also includes eliminating 150 vacant officer positions, so that the police department will begin fiscal year 2021 without any unfilled sworn positions.