Sacrificing cops for call takers, APD weighing funding options

911 Dispatch

(AUSTIN) KXAN – The Austin Police Department has laid out three funding options to help its understaffed 911 communications center this budget season.

In response to a written budget question from Council Member Bill Spelman regarding the apparent lack of increase in civilian employees for the next several years, APD staff responded in a memo showing the department is formally exploring three options:

  • submitting a Critical Priority request to reduce the number of 59 new officers to repurpose funding for part or all of the FY2014 Communication needs
  • submitting to Council the additional staffing proposal as an unmet need
  • continue to spend on overtime and mandated holdovers

APD staff also wrote the third option is least preferred since it creates additional stress of on staff and many times and causes them to look for other employment.

KXAN has been reporting on the crisis in Austin’s 911 call center since February.

The latest APD communications staffing proposal includes 21 new call taking, dispatch and support positions. It’s on a list of 38 non-sworn staff the department is pushing for after several years of insignificantly funding new civilian positions.

The issue to swap officers for call takers emerged at the June 2nd Public Safety Commission meeting when commissioners asked about subtracting the number of requested new officer positions from this year’s budget request to supplement the 911 call center.

This year APD is requesting 45 new officers as part of a four-year recommendation to reach a two-officer per thousand population ratio. The added request for 59 new sworn positions is aimed at hastening that process.

The next council budget work session is set for July 31. The new budget cycle begins in October.

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