State troopers assisting Austin PD with patrols to combat city's staffing problem
Patrol partnership is seen as a temporary solution as the city tries to fill vacancies
By Bill Carey
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas state troopers will begin assisting Austin police with patrols during the department’s staffing shortage.
Police Chief Joe Chacon and DPS Director Steve McCraw announced the arrangement on Monday. Troopers will focus on violent crime, traffic issues and will also provide backup for other emergency situations, KVUE reported.
“During my run for mayor, I promised we would make city government work better in providing basic services,” said Mayor Kirk Watson. “This is an example of that. It’s a common-sense, practical response to a serious need and arose out of a positive working relationship between the Capital City and the Capitol of Texas.”
It’s unknown how long the troopers will assist the Austin PD. City officials view the partnership as a stopgap measure as they try to fill the city’s more than 200 vacancies.
The agreement comes more than a year after voters rejected a ballot measure to mandate that the city fill vacancies and employ a certain number of officers per resident, The Texas Tribune reported. Opponents said the measure would increase city spending and lead to budget cuts for libraries, parks and other city services.
The state legislature passed a law in 2021 to prevent cities and counties from cutting their police budgets, largely in response to Austin City Council’s decision to cut $150 million from its police department’s budget. The cuts eliminated 150 officer positions, canceled cadet classes and moved some police functions to other city agencies. The City Council reversed those cuts the next year.
In just the first quarter of the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the Austin Police Department is nearing the approved overtime budget it has set, with three quarters left to factor in.