This week, the Austin, Texas City Council will consider one of the most substantial cuts to a major city’s police budget since George Floyd’s death, which sparked calls across the country to defund law enforcement and redirect that money to services like violence prevention, supportive housing, and substance use treatment, reported The Appeal.
Three City Council members have put forth a joint
proposal to shrink the police department’s budget by nearly $150
million and reinvest those funds in services for the community. It would reduce
the police department’s budget for the first time in over
a decade. Advocates have called on the city to cut APD’s budget by at least
$100 million; the joint proposal would do that, and move an additional $50
million from the Austin Police Department budget to a transition fund.
“Our primary response to problems as a local government is
policing,” Councilmember Gregorio Casar told The Appeal. “Our community has
come together like never before and demanded that change, and set a goal post
of $100 million as a signal to that change.”
The vote comes after months of protest in Austin and demands
from hundreds of
community members to reduce APD’s $434
million budget, and reinvest that money into services that create safe
and healthy communities. A session to vote on the budget begins on
Wednesday, but the public comment period could push the vote itself off to
Thursday or Friday.
Cities across the country have voted to cut police budgets
in recent months. The Minneapolis City Council moved to disband its
troubled police department in June, though the effort has since been stalled.
The Los Angeles City Council voted to reverse a $120 million increase to the
LAPD’s budget and cut an additional $30 million, while the New York City
$1 billion away from the NYPD. In Portland, Oregon, the mayor and
superintendent agreed to remove
police officers from the city’s schools and put the $1 million
budgeted for school resource officers back into the community. Austin’s
proposal would cut the police department’s budget by roughly
a third, a larger percentage reduction than these other cuts.
The proposal put
forth by Councilmembers Casar, Natasha Harper-Madison, and Mayor Pro Tem Delia
Garza late last week combines many of the ideas council members have
recommended throughout the budget process. Comments on the City Council message board seem
to indicate a majority of the 10 council members support it: Councilmembers
Leslie Pool, Ann Kitchen, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, and Jimmy Flannigan expressed
their support online. Austin Mayor Steve Adler has also said he
cutting $100 million so long as that move will be used to make
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