APD Chief Brian Manley announced a promising new community policing initiative on May 6 at a gathering of neighborhood leaders at the CLASP Forum held at McCallum High School. The Department has instituted a priority emphasis on community policing in order to have a larger presence and increased community engagement throughout Austin. This is good news for neighborhoods across the city and will have a positive impact on community relationships and reducing crime.
Many of the recommendations in the Matrix Report from last year are the basis of the changes being developed to build a truly active community policing program. Among the changes are establishing measurements and metrics to show what is being done, adding a limited number of civilians to work with District Representatives in delivering their specialized services while maintaining current DR positions, and the creation of an Executive Lieutenant position to serve as the Community Engagement Coordinator in working closely with the District Reps in the specialized and vital duties they have on the front line of neighborhood based policing.
Assistant Chief Troy Gay explained that APD will be working to determine the definition of community policing specific to Austin and to develop an effective program throughout the entire Department. There will be a shift from providing Commander’s Forums that cover entire Regions to having Community Forums in order to focus on problems particular to specific neighborhoods. The District Reps are reaching out to neighborhood groups to set up the Forums and work with residents on finding new ways to solve problems and have more engagement with residents.
We were fortunate to have the new Community Engagement Coordinator, Lt. Gizette Gaslin, present at the Forum and she addressed the group about her desire to bring a new direction and new energy to community policing, to foster closer contact among District Reps across the city to encourage communication and sharing of best practices, examine what training might be needed for DRs, and look for ways to work with residents on implementing community policing.
CLASP has been urging the Department for the past few years to consider making just these types of changes, collaborating more closely with neighborhood leaders, strengthening the DR unit, and developing a community policing program that serves the needs of Austin. CLASP believes that this new direction to build ties and increase communication between the police and the residents can improve relationships and facilitate crime prevention. We are very pleased that Chief Manley is devoting efforts to this initiative and we look forward to its implementation.
We urge people in neighborhoods around the city to be active in their areas by establishing a neighborhood watch program, by participating in APD Community Forums, by developing communication with their District Representatives, by finding ways to partner with their DRs, and by supporting law enforcement.
BUDGET DISCUSSION IS IN PROCESS
The City Council is currently examining the budget needs for FY 2018-19. The public safety portion of the General Fund is 68% with the police budget in public safety being 40%. It is important to note that three separate studies requested by Council over the past few years have recommended significant additions in both sworn and civilian staff to the Austin Police Department.
At a recent Council work session, APD presented its Five-Year Needs Assessment which included:
329 sworn positions; funding for 12 positions added in FY2017; replacement of the Computer-Aided Dispatch/Records Management System by 2020; Northwest Substation; Northeast Substation; additions to the Public Safety Training Academy; facility improvements, equipment replacement, overtime; 83.5 civilian positions; and the addition of a new sector by 2022.
The budget process will proceed over the next couple of months with city departments submitting their requests for the coming fiscal year; public hearings will be held beginning next month. Final decisions by the Council will be made in September as the new fiscal year begins October 1. Reminder: the Council does not meet in July.
Please follow the budget discussions and contact your City Council Rep to advocate for increased funding for APD .
Watch for information here, follow us on Facebook, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Central Texas in 2017 . . . There’s a new Sheriff in town . . . and a new Police Chief, and a new District Attorney, and a new Police Monitor, and a new City Manager – and that’s just in Austin, but there are new faces in many locations around Austin – both elected and appointed -- in the public safety realm.
So far, most of the problems we face are continuations from the previous year, but new ones started popping up in January. Our CLASP focus will remain on our role as a non-partisan group dedicated to encouraging and sustaining a county wide network of Neighborhood Watch leaders who share best practices, provide opportunities for skill building, and foster collaborative relationships with law enforcement and criminal justice professionals in an effort to develop a model of citizen led community policing initiatives.
Since the inception of CLASP in early 2010, we have presented more than a dozen Informational Forums dealing with many aspects of public safety, neighborhood watch, crime analysis, the criminal justice process, and funding for police services. We instituted the Watch Signs matching grant program to help neighborhoods purchase ‘big blue eye’ watch signs. In addition, we have conducted countless Neighborhood Watch Training sessions throughout Austin, communicated with APD on problematic issues and discussed the need for a defined community policing program including establishing an advisory group on community policing, and disseminated information to neighborhoods to keep them informed of how they can protect their homes, property, and families by participating in neighborhood safety activities, working collaboratively with law enforcement, and by urging elected representatives to adequately fund police services.
Board members began this New Year with a discussion of neighborhood safety and community policing with Interim Chief Manley and his staff and we look forward to continuing our conversations. We are in the process of developing Informational Forum agendas to offer topics on crime prevention, police budget needs, collaborative relationships with law enforcement and stakeholder groups, criminal justice process, and community policing, among other issues.
Watch your email for the dates and locations of the CLASP Forums beginning this Spring. If you are interested in setting up Neighborhood Watch Training for your area, please contact either CLASP at email@example.com or your APD District Representative at www.austintexas.gov/police.
It's Crucial to Fund Public Safety NOW
Austin is a very big city with a full variety of big city problems. It's time we faced the fact that we can no longer function with a police force the size of cities MUCH smaller than we are. One measure brought out recently is that we are the 11th largest city in the country with the 33rd largest police force.
In the past few years the city council has paid $150,000++ each for two studies by professional groups which both recommended sizeable increases in the number of new positions, both sworn and civilian, for the Austin Police Department. And during those years we are told that about 100 people per DAY moved to our metropolitan area - do the math. But, it's not just the number of residents that impact public safety, it's the commuters and the thousands of visitors and tourists who are here every day and night. And just look at our sprawl -- subdivisions, apartment complexes, adjacent towns, and of course, the new hotels, shopping malls, office complexes, and schools -- all over town. Austin is about 271 square miles in land area now, but expanding quickly.
For FY 2016-17, APD's staffing request was 71 sworn and 48 civilian positions (total 119). The number recommended by this year's study from Matrix Consulting Group was 78 sworn and 12 civilians this year (total 90) and an average of 17 sworn officers each year over the next four years. The number recommended in the 2011 study was 257 new sworn positions by 2017. Over the last four years the number of sworn positions approved by the council each year was far fewer than either this year's APD request or the Matrix recommendation. The city manager's proposed budget requested 12 sworn and 21 civilian positions (total 33) for FY 2016-17.
The request by Marc Ott must be rejected and instead a reasonable number of sworn and civilian positions added to the APD staff in this fiscal year's budget and approved by the City Council. This council paid a large sum of money (our taxes) for a reliable recommendation of police staffing. There is now a serious need for the full 48 civilian positions requested, making the approval of 78 sworn and 48 civilian positions the best option for Austin at this time.
Please contact Mayor Adler and every city council member ASAP to urge their budget approval of these police staffing increases to handle the policing requirements of our city. Their email addresses are in this pattern: firstname.lastname@example.org. The council will be voting on the budget over the dates of September 12-14 so take action NOW!
TWELVE. Yes, 12 officers.
In spite of two studies by outside consultants ordered by the city council which both reinforced the need for more sworn APD officers and civilian staff, the proposed budget for FY 2016-17 offered by City Manager Marc Ott contains funding for 12 new sworn positions and 21 new civilian positions to move existing sworn officers back to patrol (total of 33). APD needs more than 100 new patrol positions. TWELVE - that's an insult.
To help fill the gap the Department is planning to move some sworn officers to patrol and replacing with civilian positions. The impact of possibly moving the majority of our District Representatives to patrol and using civilian staff instead would be detrimental to the community policing so needed in our neighborhoods. We need our DRs to stay as they are.
Plan to attend the city council public hearing on August 17 and city council meeting on August 18 when this portion of the budget will be addressed. Before then, contact our Mayor, your city council member, and all the other city council members to tell them to vote for the full funding request by APD and keep sworn officers in our DR positions.
Following is a press release from the Greater Austin Crime Commission detailing the history and impact of lack of funding by the city council in the past and the current dangerous position we face in police and public safety services in Austin. The email addresses for all members of the city council are at the end of the press release. Please take action to urge our elected representatives to fund public safety first.
By David L. Roche - Special to the American-Statesman
The Dallas shootings are a stark reminder of the risks police officers face every day to keep us safe. Our dedicated public safety professionals deserve the support of a thankful community and the resources to do their jobs.
As the Austin City Council begins work on next year’s municipal budget, it’s important to recognize the warning signs that show we’re falling further behind when it comes to public safety. Violent crime is up more than 19 percent compared to this time last year. Emergency and urgent dispatch calls have increased during the past five years, which has resulted in longer response times to calls for help. And time available for community policing has fallen to disturbingly low levels.
While it’s evident that rapid growth strains law enforcement, the Austin City Council has failed to adopt even minimum police staffing recommendations since 2012, when the first taxpayer-funded study confirmed Austin needs many more patrol officers.
Local police staffing shortages have made headlines in recent months. Hundreds of detectives are being pulled from investigations and assigned to patrol shifts as a stopgap. In a survey released last month, 90 percent of Austin police officers said manpower shortages are “seriously impacting” the department’s ability to do its job effectively. And almost half said “more officers” is the “biggest improvement” needed for the Austin Police Department to do its job.
Last year, the Austin City Council shorted the police budget by millions of dollars and dozens of uniformed positions. The city manager’s proposal to add patrol officers was cut by nearly a third after a unanimous council vote. Then the City Council decided to spend $200,000 on a study to determine the right police staffing levels. That report, which is due to be released this month, is expected to confirm the Austin Police Department is inadequately staffed and will recommend adding more than 100 patrol officer positions.
How many more taxpayer-funded studies do we need to tell us what we already know? In 2011, the City Council commissioned a patrol staffing study at a cost of nearly $100,000. Based on projected population growth and analysis that examined police staffing in patrol and investigations, the study recommended adding at least 257 sworn positions by 2017. The City Council approved only 22 new police personnel — patrol and supervisor — in 2013; 47 more sworn positions were added in 2014 and 59 the following year.
The proposed fiscal year 2016 budget introduced a better police staffing model based on community engagement time, not a population ratio. The new formula emphasizes effective community policing based on patrol officers having enough time to build relationships and trust in the neighborhoods they serve. Notably, an independent analysis of the improved model cautioned that the “recent failure of the city to implement the recommendations of the past three years for the number of police needed puts Austin in a precarious position on public safety.” The city manager’s 2016 fiscal-year budget proposed 85 additional patrol and supervisor positions based on a plan to increase staff to sufficient levels in the next five years, but the council approved just 50, putting the police department further behind.
The Greater Austin Crime Commission urges the mayor and council not to disregard the public safety challenges we face as they confront difficult budget choices. If ignored, public safety will end up like mobility and transportation: too far behind to catch up — and with far more grave and deadly consequences.
Police Chief Art Acevedo and his colleagues have the most difficult job in Austin. City leaders are only making it harder.
Roche is president of the Greater Austin Crime Commission. The Crime Commission was founded in 1997 to support Central Texas first responders and promote regional public safety planning.
A message from David Roche, president of the Greater Austin Crime Commission
As work begins on next year's municipal budget, please contact the Austin City Council and ask them to fund public safety first and release the latest taxpayer-funded community policy study.
Warning signs show that Austin is falling behind when it comes to public safety. Violent crime is up and response times to calls for help have increased. If ignored, public safety will end up like mobility and transportation: too far behind to catch up -- and with far more grave and deadly consequences.
Despite the Austin Police Department's request for more than a hundred new patrol positions, the proposed FY17 budget only includes 33. How many more taxpayer-funded police staffing studies do we need to tell us what we already know? Rapid growth strains public safety resources.
Your engagement is vital to this community discussion. Forward to family and friends and ask them to send the same message to the mayor and council -- fund public safety first.
To e-mail the mayor and entire Austin City Council click HERE.
Contact the mayor and council individually using the information below.
Mayor Steve Adler
Council Member (District 1)
Council Member (District 2)
Sabino "Pio" Renteria
Council Member (District 3)
Gregorio "Greg" Casar
Council Member (District 4)
Council Member (District 5)
Council Member (District 6)
Council Member (District 7)
Council Member (District 8)
Council Member (District 9)
Council Member (District 10)
Greater Austin Crime Commission
Post Office Box 27016
Austin, Texas 78755
Reminder! Commanders Forums Coming Up!
Region IV and Region II both have new Commanders. Region II also has a new operation lieutenant. We encourage you to
come to the next commander's forum, and meet your new commander if you are in Region II or Region IV.
Tuesday, July 27, 2016 - 6:30 - 8 p.m., Cornerstone Church, 1101 Reinli St.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - 6:30 - 8 p.m., The Settlement Home, 1607 Colony Creek Dr.
Tuesday, July 12, 2016 - 6:30 - 8 p.m., Abel's North, 4001 Parmer Lane
If you live east of ACC Northridge, you are in Edward, if you live west of ACC Northridge, you are in Adam.
Tuesday, July 12, 2016, 812 Springdale Rd., Main Conference Room, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Thursday, July 21, 2016, 404 Ralph Ablanedo, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Not sure what region you are in? Map is here:
All Commander's Forums:
It appears that Community Policing by District Representatives is on the chopping block at APD. In an effort to put more officers on the street, several position/staffing changes are being considered. The city council for the past several years has not provided funding for the full number of positions in the APD budget request, therefore this year, APD budget considerations include cycling “inside” sworn officers through patrol duties several times per year; for now we are told detectives, with other positions to be determined. During the budget discussions last year, APD requested additional positions in order to build up the community policing program in Austin; about half of the requested number was approved. The recruiting, hiring, and training process to get new officers on the street can take 18-24 months.
The latest discussion we have heard about is converting approximately 48 sworn officer positions to civilian jobs – the District Representatives’ positions would be filled by civilians. There is talk about retaining one sworn DR in each region, but as with many of these changes, no final decisions have been made. The DRs would be transferred to patrol or other positions within the Department – we would loose the most important and knowledgeable individuals who provide specialized services to our neighborhoods and our schools, who are liaisons to our communities, and serve our residents with the level of response which requires a sworn peace officer. Even if some of the duties can be handled by civilians, the sworn officers are our connection we need in difficult situations.
The City Council hired Matrix Consulting Group to conduct a Community Policing Study to determine what APD’s community policing plan will be and what measures are required to implement a comprehensive, effective program to serve the people of Austin. The study includes input from law enforcement personnel, elected officials, and community members. Please take the survey to give your thoughts and opinions – it’s on the APD website: www.austintexas.gov/department/police. Deadline is May 9 - it is possible that the deadline could be extended, but go ahead and do it now. The survey results will be produced in early June.
In addition, City Council members are having town hall meetings in their districts to gather feedback. D1, D4, and D6 have already had their meetings. D2 is on May 10, D5 is on May 11, D7 is on May 21. CM Gallo and Troxclaire indicate they will not be having a meeting; you can check with your CM if a meeting for your district is not shown here. Participate if you can.
If you believe that keeping the sworn officers as District Representatives that we now have is vital to our city, contact the Mayor, City Manager, all of the City Council Members, and APD. If you believe that public safety in Austin is important enough to be staffed at the needed levels, do the same. Tell them how DRs are important to your neighborhood and what the effect will be if these officers are taken away. Yes, patrol officers are absolutely needed, but taking our DRs cannot be the only option.
The schedule for upcoming Council budget action is: projected budget provided to the Council on July 27. The new fiscal year begins October 1, so the vote will be taken prior to that date. City Council meeting dates and agendas are on the city’s website.
This is the contact information for your use:
Our efforts: in late March, representatives of CLASP met with Chief Art Acevedo to talk about neighborhood and public safety matters, express our concerns about the DR changes, and to make recommendations we feel would be helpful as Austin increases its Community Policing Program. Our discussions included APD’s efforts to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the face of budget issues and population growth, our belief that the education and direct services provided and the good will generated by District Reps is as valuable and important as what patrol and other units provide, the benefits of improving and expanding Neighborhood Watch training, coordinating the DRs and community engagement, and establishing an Advisory Board on Community Policing composed of experienced community members, APD staff, and other stakeholders. We look forward to a continuing dialogue as the process continues.
Well, Folks, it’s happened again . . .
An added job duty has been dumped onto the workload of our District Representatives. The Vehicle Abatement Unit was disbanded and their workload has been assigned to District Reps throughout the City. This is a recent development so the Regions are in the process of getting necessary training, figuring out how to allot the duties among their DRs, and working on efficiently handling this new task. It is true that not every neighborhood has a large problem with vehicle abatement, but many do, and in those areas, it is a significant issue which must be handled. Vehicle Abatement is time consuming, complex, and is a long process to monitor to completion. In two of the Regions, the DRs are spending about 25% of their time doing this one task!
In the APD budget request for this fiscal year, the basis of asking for additional officer positions was that they were needed for increased community policing; the city council approved approximately half of their request. District Reps are the only officer positions which are fully dedicated and responsible for community policing by developing positive relationships with citizens and building community engagement. Why pull them off their vital community policing activities within our neighborhoods and give them a different – property related -- task? This can be described as shooting yourself in the foot.
The reason for disbanding the Vehicle Abatement Unit was that the Recruiting Unit was increased by five sworn officers – the positions were taken from other areas and transferred there – two from Vehicle Abatement. New recruits to fill our 100+ vacancies are badly needed and additional staff can help bring in qualified applicants, so there is no doubt about the need. However, there must be some other way to assist Recruiting instead of putting more duties on our DRs – the only officers whose entire job is community engagement – thus taking them away from the work they do for us in our neighborhoods. While vehicle abatement is necessary, the result can be taking away a person’s property – that’s hardly a good way for DRs to build good relationships with citizens.
If this is an issue in your neighborhood, to make your voice heard, contact Chief Acevedo (Art.Acevedo@austintexas.gov) and explain that we do not want our DRs to be responsible for this additional job that prevents them from having their full time available to handle the actual community engagement and relationship building that is so needed in Austin. Urge that APD find other positions to transfer to Recruiting, OR assign those duties to some positions other than our DRs, OR increase the Recruiting staff by three instead of five and reinstate the Vehicle Abatement Unit, OR reinstate the VA Unit for a specified time (six months?) to work in conjunction with the DRs in clearing the backlog and reducing the remaining problem vehicles and then reconsider where to assign the VA duties, OR move the VA duties to the Code Compliance Department, OR some other solution – just don’t give this additional work to our DRs.
Vision Zero Report Reviewed by Public Safety Commission
At their February 1 meeting the PSC discussed the City’s draft report regarding the high number of traffic deaths in Austin and plans to eliminate the deaths. The work on this initiative had been handled by the Planning and Zoning Department until a recent change was made to move it to the Transportation Department. Commissioner Levy, who serves on the Vision Zero Task Force, explained that the Task Force did not receive the draft, which contained 100 actions to take, for their review before it was posted on the city’s website, and he offered five recommendations to be included in the report, for consideration by the Commission. After making two changes to the wording, the Commission approved them as a draft resolution which they will vote on at their next meeting. It was pointed out by city staff that the current document is to be used for the upcoming process of taking public comment, prioritizing action items, estimating costs, and developing recommendations, prior to preparing the final report for the council in May.
Everyone is urged to track this process, participate in public comment meetings, consider the costs and recommendations, and contact your city council member to give them your input on this major initiative. The next PSC meeting is on March 7 – check the city website for time and location.
Please take the time to attend the APD Forum in your Region – the information on dates, times, and locations is on the APD website. These Forums are your best chance to talk face to face with the District Reps who work in your neighborhood.
Fees for Special Events
Waiving of fees, collection of fees, setting fees, the impact of large scale events on Austin and it’s neighborhoods, the costs to taxpayers in Austin of paying necessary costs for events, what can/should be done about these issues -- these and more items were discussed at the community meeting held by the City on February 10. Participants gave their input on ideas received during a survey and developed additional ideas and suggestions which will be compiled by the staff into a report to be presented for community input at the next meeting on February 24 at 6:30 pm at the Asian American Resource Center – check the city’s website for specific updated information. Plan to participate in this meeting to give your thoughts.
Citizen Police Academy Fills Up
The current session of the CPA, which began in the second week of February, once again drew almost 100 applicants, making it necessary to hold two classes per week in order to accommodate the people in Austin who want to attend. The motto of Austin’s CPA is ‘Understanding through Education’ and the goal is to provide information to citizens about the many aspects of police work in order for them to know what officers deal with and how they do their jobs. The class is free, the meal is provided, and parking is free. Check the APD website for full information about the program content and application process. The next class will begin in September.
__ __ __ __ __ __
PLEASE be careful when you are outdoors jogging or walking – the current wave of assaults is alarming. Take all the safety precautions set out by law enforcement and be aware of your surroundings.
March 9th, 7pm - Watch Training for South Austin
Keye's 3 Part Series on Burglars - Part 1 here: