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 .
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