City considers 59 new officers, far fewer than chief wanted

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department has said for years it simply does not have enough officers. The department learned on Thursday it will likely only get the minimum number of new officers wanted for the next budget year.

City leaders are recommending 59 sworn officers for APD, far fewer than the 126 Chief Art Acevedo wanted.

“When you really drill down into the work load of this department, and you really drill down into the environment we work in, these positions are not only justified, they’re greatly needed,” said Acevedo.

He made his case Thursday at a budget meeting.

GOING IN-DEPTH // How Austin stacks up

  • Austin has 1.95 police officers for every 1,000 citizens.
  • San Antonio has 1.75 officers per 1,000 citizens.
  • Fort Worth has 1.99 officers per 1,000 citizens.
  • Houston has 2.4 officers per 1,000 citizens.

Source: FBI statistics from 2012.

“We still have a tremendous challenge with property crime,” he added.

Acevedo says police presence is key and added there just are not enough officers for patrol right now. Austin Police Association President Wayne Vincent says the needs reach even further.

“We are short-handed in every area of the police department, not just patrol,” said Vincent. “We’re desperate. Our officers are overworked, especially during events like SXSW, Formula 1; they’re overworked to the point of affecting safety.”

Though violent crime may be low now, he says it is dangerous to get complacent.

“Crime is going to go up. It’s cyclical,” Vincent added. “We’ve got to stay ahead and be proactive. If we get in a situation where we get behind and we become reactive, we’re never going to catch up.”

The chief says 59 new positions is a good start for this year, and they will again ask for more during the next budget cycle.

Department’s come up with their request for more officers by comparing officer to population ratios. The city commissioned a study a couple of years ago that suggested Austin needed more than 200 additional sworn officers within five years.

This year’s budget also included room to hire 38 support-staff positions. This includes people to man the 911 call center and DNA scientists.

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