Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is considering a proposal from former state lawmakers that would force the Austin Police Department to answer to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Abbott has been critical of recent Austin City Council cuts to the Police Department’s budget that aim to reinvest that money elsewhere in the city budget, and he has already offered a legislative proposal that would freeze the property tax revenue of any Texas city reducing a police department’s budget.
In a brief statement Thursday, Mayor Steve Adler said, “Austin is the safest big city in Texas, and one of the safest in the country,” Adler said. “Public safety is our priority, and we support our police. We’re also always looking for ways for everyone to be even more safe.”
Terry Keel, a former Travis County sheriff and former Republican state representative, and Ron Wilson, a former Democratic state representative from Houston, laid out the proposal in an August letter to Abbott.
“Austin politicians have overtly politicized local law enforcement to the detriment of all Texans and given state officials not only a reason, but a compelling duty to act,” Keel told the American-Statesman.
Keel and Wilson’s two-page letter says lawmakers should draw up legislation that allows the Legislature to consolidate police departments with DPS in areas where the governor has determined that, “due to insufficient municipal resources being appropriated for public safety needs, the safety of the public is jeopardized.”
Austin City Council members in August unanimously approved a $4.2 billion budget that includes plans to shift up to $150 million out of the Austin police budget.