Despite a shortage of police officers, Austin, Texas, Interim City Manager Jesús Garza, in consultation with Democratic Mayor Kirk Watson, announced he is suspending the city’s partnership with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), leading critics to claim the leader is caving to the whims of “Marxists” activists on the left.
The product of talks between Watson, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, the partnership was originally announced on March 27 as a way to “support Austin Police as the department builds back its ranks,” according to the Wednesday press release, which notes that it “has resulted in a decrease in violent and gun crime, fewer traffic fatalities, shorter response times to calls for assistance, and seizures of significant amounts of illicit drugs, including fentanyl and heroin.”
— BizPac Review (@BIZPACReview) March 5, 2023
Just two days prior to the Wednesday announcement, Watson praised the partnership, which saw state officers rush in to assist Austin’s defunded and understaffed police department, according to Fox News Digital.
On Wednesday, the mayor reversed course and, citing “recent events,” claimed the partnership does not align with “Austin’s values.”
“From the start of this partnership with DPS, I said I wanted Austinites to feel safe and be safe,” Austin said. “Recent events demonstrate we need to suspend the partnership with DPS.”
“The safety of our community is a primary function of City government, and we must keep trying to get it right,” he explained. “This partnership was an innovative approach to address acute staffing shortages that were years in the making. However, any approach must be in sync with Austin values.”
“One of those incidents involved a trooper reportedly pointing a gun at the head of a 10-year-old boy and his dad, according to their initial claim, during a traffic stop as the boy tried to exit the car,” Fox News Digital reports. “Bodycam footage released later by DPS contradicted the father’s story and showed the trooper had his gun pointed at the ground while following standard protocol.”
Still, woke city council members and progressive activists used this and other DPS encounters with Austin citizens to claim that DPS was targeting minority communities in the city.
“Public safety is at the very core of what we do in city government and this partnership was a practical approach as the Austin Police Department faces serious staffing challenges,” said Garza. “We have heard Mayor and Council’s concerns about recent events and agree that we must have absolute certainty that any solution we put in place maintains the trust and wellbeing of our community members and that all law enforcement officers working to keep our city safe are on the same page when it comes to policing practices.”
In the wake of the 2020 George Floyd riots, when the defund movement was reaching a fevered pitch, the Austin Police Department was short 500 officers and facing a slew of retirements.
In ending the beneficial DPS partnership, Austin Police Retired Officers Association President Dennis Farris said Watson “flipped out.”
“This has gone off the rails,” he told Fox News Digital. “I think he flipped out without knowing the facts and got some bad advice from his advisers.”
“He made this decision and now that he’s made it literally 24 hours after he praised the partnership and said he foresaw it lasting until staffing was back up until we don’t need them, 24 hours later he says ‘Oh we were looking at disbanding the partnership anyway,'” Farris fumed. “That’s the worst flip-flop since John Kerry in the 2004 election saying I was for the war before I was against it. He blew this entire thing up over the word of a third-grader.”
Austin Police Officer Justin Berry accused the mayor of “pandering” to the left.
“He’s trying to pander to the left wing of his base because he knows he’s going to get challenged here in the next mayoral debate,” Berry said. “He’s playing politics with everyone’s safety.”
While Watson probably wishes he could tell his critics to “sit at the kids’ table,” Berry said, he’s “in over his head.”
“The Austin Democrat Party, they’re not Democrats, they’re Marxists,” Berry said. “It’s not the same party as when he was mayor back in the 90s.”
Austin’s partnership with DPS may be dissolved — ending its close work with the Austin Police Department and prohibiting DPS officers from responding to the city’s 911 calls — but DPS jurisdiction means its officers can still patrol Austin’s streets.
With that in mind, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced on Saturday that he will be sending an additional 30 DPS officers to Watson’s city.
“The City of Austin may not want police, but the residents deserve it & I will provide it,” Abbott tweeted. “Crime has gone down in areas patrolled by the Texas Dept. of Public Safety. We will continue deploying state police to keep communities safe.”
The City of Austin may not want police, but the residents deserve it & I will provide it.
Crime has gone down in areas patrolled by the Texas Dept. of Public Safety.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) July 15, 2023
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