Even with DPS help, APD keeps its cars at SXSW barriers

An APD officer takes a sip of water while manning a SXSW barricade in March 2015. His patrol car blocks a fire lane per new City protocols.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police officers are leaving their marked vehicles in place at barricades in place for South by Southwest even if those intersections are being watched over by Department of Public Safety troopers.

“We have to keep the APD vehicles at the barricades in the event an APD officer relieves a DPS trooper and requires a vehicle,” wrote Asst. Chief Chris Mcilvain in an email response to KXAN.

The department requested DPS for help to relieve “a portion of the on-duty support personnel” so they could return to their normal duty assignments, such as major crimes detectives. DPS confirmed up to 45 troopers a day would fill in any gaps. The state is expected to cover costs associated with troopers helping out at the festival, including any overtime accrued.

From an operations perspective, APD has given troopers access to city police radio channels being used at SXSW. But their area of responsibility “does not include any enforcement – only barricades and traffic management,” McIlvain wrote.

Part of the safety plan for SXSW involves taking police vehicles from the training academy to augment barricades by filling in gaps that must be left for fire lanes. The plan also involves taking some vehicles from patrol sectors outside the downtown core and having officers in the suburbs who would normally ride solo, double up.

The Austin Police Association says that decision will extend response times to urgent calls since fewer cars than normal will be in an area. At a recent Public Safety Commission meeting, Asst. Chief Brian Manley admitted response times could increase “a bit.”

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