Austin Police: ‘civilianize’ 48 positions to put more cops back on street

FILE - Austin Police Department Headquarters (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Austin Police Department Headquarters (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – As the vacancy rate at Austin police reaches 174 positions, police executives are pitching city council members the idea of hiring civilians to take over administrative and other office positions, members of the Public Safety Commission heard Monday.

Asst. Chief Brian Manley says the ‘civilianization’ idea is a bid to control a natural attrition of four to five officers a month to retirements and terminations as well as a higher number of emergency calls this year. Those so-called “hot shot” calls can take many officers out of the mix for extended periods, Manley says.

Should Council give its blessing this budget year, the 48 new positions would be quick hires, Manley told Commissioners.

“The hiring cycle for a civilian is much shorter. We would write up the job qualifications, post that and we would be in the hiring cycle within a month,” Manley says. “And once that person’s on board we can immediately put that [sworn] person back into a patrol function.”

It’s unclear which sworn roles the 48 would take over. One guess is more civilians in the Public Information Office that deals with media and other public requests.

Police Association President Ken Casaday tells KXAN he does not favor taking away Public Service positions and says now is not the time to be floating such an idea, instead calling for the issue to be tackled in union contract negotiations later this year.

In addition to 53 new full-time patrol positions APD is calling for:
• 2 DNA scientists
• 4 latent print examiners
• 10 property crime scene specialists
• 2 sworn executive protection officers (for VIPs like the mayor)
• 18 detectives for various units such as burglary, auto theft and child abuse)
• 2 staff to handle open records requests (to include body camera video requests)

There’s also a request for $1 million more in overtime. Last year, budget records show Austin funded 50 new police positions (39 patrol) and 14 civilian staff.

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