Austin, TX – Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he is considering having the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) take over policing in some Austin areas due to skyrocketing homicide rates.
There have been 43 murders in Austin so far this year, which is the highest number of homicides the city has seen in 20 years, KEYE reported.
Abbott has repeatedly accosted the city of Austin for defunding its police department in August by a staggering 34 percent.
“Austin experiences highest number of homicides in 20 years,” the governor tweeted on Monday. “This is why it is absurd that Austin is defunding police.”
“It is also why Texas will act to roll back that defunding and consider taking over policing some areas of Austin,” he added.
Austin City Councilmember Greg Casar accused Abbott of making threats in an attempt to draw attention away from his alleged mishandling of the pandemic, KXAN reported.
“Austinites will not allow Gov. Abbott to fear monger and threaten our city just to score political points and distract from his lack of action on COVID-19,” Casar said in a statement on Monday.
The councilmember alleged that people are dying because of Abbott’s lack of leadership.
“As we double down on investing limited public safety resources into community solutions to poverty and crime, we’ll continue to see attacks from those who want to keep the status quo,” Casar said, according to KXAN. “We need our community to continue to use their voices to advocate for community-focused public safety, not failed over-policing that does not keep us all safer.”
The Austin City Council voted to slash the city’s police budget by $150 million on Aug. 13, thereby removing approximately one-third of the department’s total funding, FOX News reported at the time.
The three-tiered plan will kick off by immediately stripping $21.5 million from the police budget to be “reinvested” into programs such as abortion, housing, mental health response, offender re-entry programs, and workforce development, among others.
That money was previously allocated to fund three Austin Police Department (APD) police cadet classes, The Texas Tribune reported.
Nearly $80 million will be funneled into a “Decouple Fund,” which aims to transfer many police programs to outside agencies.
Included in the Decouple Fund are functions such as the special investigations unit, internal affairs, the 911 center, victims’ services, and forensic science services, among others.
Nearly $50 million will be transferred to the “Reimagine Safety Fund,” which will “divert dollars…toward alternative forms of public safety and community support,” according to the city council’s plan.
The police defunding plan was crafted by Casar, who said the massive budget cut is only the beginning, The Texas Tribune reported.
This moment has been born out of a lot of hurt in the community,” Casar said at the city council meeting on Aug.13. “We know we have a long way to go.”
Abbott resoundingly denounced the defunding measure in a press release later that same day.
“Some cities are more focused on political agendas than public safety,” Abbott wrote. “Austin’s decision puts the brave men and women of the Austin Police Department and their families at greater risk, and paves the way for lawlessness.”
“Public safety is job one, and Austin has abandoned that duty,” he declared. “The legislature will take this issue up next session, but in the meantime, the Texas Department of Public Safety will stand in the gap to protect our capital city.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that the plan was a “political haymaker driven by the pressures of cancel culture,” The Texas Tribune reported.
“Unfortunately, the targets of this ‘cancelling’ are the brave men and women who selflessly put their lives on the line to keep our families safe,” Paxton told the news outlet. “The city council’s action to slash funding disregards the safety of our capital city, its citizens, and the many guests who frequent it.”
Texas State Senator Dawn Buckingham slammed the Austin City Council’s proposal one day before the measure was approved.
“It does not surprise me that the so-called leaders at Austin City Hall plan to cut up to $150 million from Austin Police Department’s annual budget amidst the radical national movement to defund our police departments,” Buckingham said.
The city’s plan will force APD to cut approximately 100 police officer positions, she noted.
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley later said that the department would actually need to cut about 150 positions, bringing staffing numbers down to the level they were at in 2015, according to the Associated Press.
“This comes at a time where crime has skyrocketed in Austin, accounting for the highest percentage increase in homicides amongst big cities in the nation with over a 64% increase,” Buckingham wrote. “Austin’s excuse of a City Council has decided to side with lawlessness and put its citizens in danger.”
The senator further questioned how allocating at least $100,000 to “abortion access services” will benefit the community.
“In what world would increasing access to killing unborn children make Austin a safer place to call home?” Buckingham asked. “This is just the latest charade in the Austin City Council’s agenda to ensure that more unborn children are killed in the name of progressivism.”
The Austin Police Association said in a tweet that the defunding plan is “ridiculous and unsafe.”
“They are going to ignore the majority who do not want the police defunded,” the union wrote on Aug. 13.
Chief Manley said that the budget cut will not only hurt APD cadets and their families, but it will also damage the “reputation of the [APD] in the recruiting circles,” according to the Associated Press.
Casar blew off the widespread criticism in a series of victorious tweets on Aug. 13.
“Extreme, anti-civil rights voices will try to send us backward and are already working mislead people about this vote,” the councilman wrote. “But today, we should celebrate what the movement has achieved for safety, racial justice, and democracy.”
Austin activist group Communities of Color United complained that the $150 million budget cut wasn’t good enough, FOX News reported.
The group had demanded that the city strip at least 50 percent of the APD’s budget away.
During a press conference on Aug. 18, Abbott said he plans to introduce legislation aimed at freezing property tax revenue for any city in the state that defunds its police force.
“When crime is on the rise, the last thing we should do is defund the police,” Abbot declared during a press conference that day, according to KRIV.
“Any city that defunds police departments will have its property tax revenue frozen at the current level,” the governor continued. “They will never be able to increase property tax revenue again if they defund police.”
“Cities that endanger residents by reducing law enforcement should not then be able to turn around and go back and get more property tax dollars from those same residents,” he added.
Abbot further argued that caving to demands to defund law enforcement is not a cure-all for incidents of alleged “police brutality,” The Texas Tribune reported.
“If we have police brutality, we don’t need fewer police, we need less police brutality,” Abbott said, pushing instead for increased training for law enforcement.