Austin could remove a dozen services, programs from police oversight

The forensics lab and five other services could be reallocated under other city departments as early as fall 2020

By Suzie Ziegler  

AUSTIN, Texas — The City of Austin could remove the forensics lab and five other services out from under control of the Austin Police Department as early as fall 2020, according to KXAN. It’s part of a larger plan to reallocate many police programs under other city departments. 

In a memo this week the City Council received a detailed timeline for moving a dozen programs and seven more that remain under consideration. 

Members of the Austin police department march with members of the University of Texas football team to the State Capitol in Austin, on Thursday, June 4, 2020.
Members of the Austin police department march with members of the University of Texas football team to the State Capitol in Austin, on Thursday, June 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Council Member Greg Casar, who’s leading efforts to move many functions out of the police department, says creating a new forensics lab to replace APD’s current DNA crime lab is a top priority. 

“We have been talking for years since 2016 about the failures in our forensics process, and I think really bolstering the forensics lab, having it be independent and getting it done in this budget would be a really important thing for survivors of violence and harm in our community,” Casar told KXAN. 

Casar admits that it could take the city months to set up the programs in new departments. 

Dismantling too many resources quickly could result in legal challenges and operational problems, Greater Austin Crime Commission President Corby Jastrow warned in a newsletter. 

But Casar says the city can work around that. 

“I hear time and time again how there’s going to be operational challenges, how there’s going to be legal questions, and so often that’s what keeps us in the status quo, keeps us doing the same things where misconduct happens, there isn’t an investigation that everybody can trust, there’s an issue it gets dragged out for months and then nobody is satisfied with the result,” Casar said. 

The city says the timeline is evolving, according to KXAN, so the current timeline of department reallocation below could yet change. 

The following programs could be moved out of the police department in the first quarter of the 2020-2021 budget this fall: 

  • Forensics Lab 

  • Administrative & Management services 

  • Technology services 

  • Officer Wellness Program 

  • Municipal/Community Court Security 

  • Protective Services 

The memo says the following five programs could be moved out in the fall but would most likely be moved in 2021: 

  • Chief Medical Officer concept 

  • Strategic Support 

  • Emergency Call Center & Police Dispatch 

  • Internal Affairs 

  • Special Investigations Unit 

Nuisance Abatement could be the final area to move in late 2021, according to the memo. In addition to those 12 areas the city has targeted to remove from Austin Police control, the memo also highlights seven other areas that could be considered for removal APD. A soon-to-be established task force will decide on the following areas: 

  • Crisis Intervention Team & Mental Health Response 

  • Park Patrol, Lake Patrol, & Airport Police 

  • Victim Services, Crisis Counselors 

  • Community Partnerships 

  • Officer Training 

  • Vehicle Licensing/Highway Enforcement 

  • Governance 

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