‘God help us all’: Police union chief says Austin on ‘brink of disaster’ due to ‘free-falling staffing crisis’

According to Austin Police Association President Michael Bullock, The City of Legends is on the “brink of disaster” thanks to a 2020 decision to defund the police department.

“Previous councils and leadership have actively worked against our officers and department, which has now put us in a free-falling staffing crisis,” Bullock told Fox News Digital. “Twice now we’ve had our contract voted down or it has been allowed to expire.”

“Each year since 2017, we’ve lost more officers than we’ve hired,” he stated. “We had to gut our specialized units and force detectives to work backfill on patrol just to try and respond to 911 calls.”

In February, Bullock took to X and revealed that, for two hours, there wasn’t a single police officer available to patrol an entire section of Austin.

“Staffing woes continue,” he wrote. “Due to our staffing being at 2006 levels, an entire sector in East Austin went two hours without a patrol officer assigned to the sector today. Our backfill shift made up of detectives and specialized units pulling double duty had to provide coverage.”

“Last year, the department was on the verge of a staffing collapse after 40 officers filed retirement papers following a 9-2 city council vote to scrap a four-year contract that the city had previously agreed to in principle and instead pursue a one-year contract that the police union’s board had rejected,” Fox Digital reports.

“As a result,” Bullock said, “our staffing has been set back at least 15 years and at the same time we’ve dealt with a population growth of over 250,000 new residents.”

“Combine that,” he added, “with a district attorney who has made it very clear that targeting officers and releasing criminals is his priority – not public safety.”

After Black Lives Matter burned and looted their way through America’s cities in the name of George Floyd, Austin’s city council members voted unanimously in 2020 to “cut up to $150 million from its police department budget — about 34% of its current total — and reinvest the funds in other services,” Fox Digital explains. “The following year, the Texas Legislature passed a law essentially forcing Austin to restore the funding, but the officer shortage persists.”

Longtime Austin resident Lauren Klinefelter recalled to Fox Digital the time in 2022 when she and her children were involved in a car crash.

Dialing 911 was a shocking wake-up call.

“We needed an ambulance and some emergency assistance because not only was my car totaled, but my children were both bleeding and visibly injured,” she said. “I called 911 and, to my surprise, it rang and rang endlessly, only to be routed to a 311 operator for non-emergencies.”

Ultimately, Klinefelter and her injured eight- and two-year-old children were forced to take a Lyft to the nearby hospital.

“My children were bleeding and over an hour had passed, so with no other option, we got a Lyft to the hospital and back home,” she said. “The police never showed up, I was never contacted by anyone to follow up on the incident.”

Had the police not been defunded, Austin resident Nick Kantor says his brother, Doug, would still be alive.

Doug was killed in the 2021 Sixth Street mass shooting. He was in town to celebrate with friends. He’d just earned his Master’s Degree.

Rival teenage gang members opened fire. Doug was killed and 14 people were injured.

“I found out that the anti-gang task force, along with most of the preventative crime measures, were the ones that were defunded due to prejudicial concerns about the ethnicity of the people being targeted by these factions of the APD,” Kantor told Fox Digital.

“De’ondre White was convicted and sentenced to 30 years for the shooting in September 2023,” the outlet reports.

Progressive Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza chose “not to pursue charges against the several other gang members who were at the scene.”

Austin City Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly is the only one who has acknowledged his family’s frustrations, Kantor said.

“I think it’s pretty clear that their policies epically failed, and ultimately killed my brother along with hundreds of other people,” he told Fox Digital. “And instead of accepting that they made a mistake and doing their best to make it right, they have chosen [to] ignore the statistics and continue to come up with more ways to dismantle the Austin Police Department.”

Council member-turned-U.S. House Representative Greg Casar (D-Texas) and those who joined him in voting to defund the police don’t “give a damn about the people in Austin,” according to Fraternal Order of Police Vice President Joe Gamaldi.

“What the Austin city council did was horrific to the community,” Gamaldi told Fox Digital. “There is no one left to fill these shortages because the city council treats officers like scum.”

“Now, responses are over 10 minutes for emergency calls,” he fumed. “Some districts are left without staff.”

“City council should learn their lesson over violent crime,” he said. “2021 was the highest ever for recorded murders and, since then, the murder rate continues to stay close to that high and looks like 2024 will not be any better. People are dying over bad decisions.”

Bullock praised “Austin’s finest” and said Mayor Kirk Watson should be “ashamed” of himself.

“Our former council members and mayor should be ashamed of themselves for allowing us to go down this path,” he said. “The over 1,400 members of the Austin Police Association are here to do everything we can to keep our city safe. No matter what challenges we face, Austin’s finest continue to show up to work to stand in the gap between those who seek to do wrong and innocent Austinites.”

Klinefelter just wants to know that help will be there if she needs 911 again.

“I understand longer response times in certain situations, but no response at all is scary!” she said. “Especially when your babies are the ones you are seeking help for.”

“I hope that our city can become safe again and that the police department can fill the empty spots,” the Austin mother said, “because if not, God help us all.”

Melissa Fine

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