Bar lowered for Austin police in city’s annual performance report

FILE - Austin police vehicle (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Austin police vehicle (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new report rates the service of every department in the city of Austin from police and EMS to the airport and Austin Energy.

In years past, the Austin Performance Report has been a 200-page PDF that was daunting for the average person to read through.

For the first time the city has created a digital version in a new format that is easier to click through and understand.

The 2015 Austin Performance Report is a self-evaluation that puts statistical data next to goals set at the start of the fiscal year by department heads, city officials and sometimes national standards.

“We don’t want to set a goal so it’s too easy to attain,” said Kimberly Olivares, the acting chief performing officer for the city of Austin.

Under public safety, EMS fared well on the time it takes a 911 call taker to dispatch an ambulance. The 2015 goal was one minute and 15 seconds. The city beat that time by an average of nearly five seconds, but it was still slower than the performance the year before.

Another section highlighted police response times for the most urgent calls. It was eight minutes and four seconds, which was about 30 seconds slower than the goal.

Austin Police Asst. Chief Brian Manley told KXAN they always strive to do better, but we noticed they lowered the bar when it comes to the percentage of people who are satisfied with police services. The results are part of a survey sent to about 2,000 households in all ten city council districts.

In 2014, APD set the goal at 74 percent satisfaction, and met it. In 2015, the department only aimed for 72 percent satisfaction, and met their goal again.

The department looked at results from the last five years to set the 2015 goal.

“We don’t want to set a goal we cannot achieve,” said Asst. Chief Manley. “Future performance is measured by past experience.”

Mayor Steve Adler, who was out-of-state Monday, sent the following statement about the 2015 report:

“The performance report is a valuable self-evaluation for the city of Austin. We see significant success – particularly in financial management and public safety. Yet, we also see only 17.2 percent of Austinites are satisfied with traffic flow on major streets. That’s one more reason why the council’s $720 million Smart Corridor bond is critically important.”

City Manager Marc Ott responded to KXAN’s request for an interview with the following emailed statement:

The Annual Performance Report is key tool in helping myself, my executives, and the Council identify if we’re meeting the goals we’ve set and provides us the information necessary to make smart data-driven decisions. While we do many things very well there are others – traffic flow for instance – that we all know are a challenge.

To help make things transparent and invite the community into the discussion we’ve published this report in a new, more interactive, format that allows everyone to drill down and make sense of our performance in plain English.

The report shows that our hard work is paying off but makes clear we all have more to do. I’ll be working closely with my executives and the City Council to chart the way forward and address areas needing improvement.”

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