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Abbott plots DPS takeover of APD

Tuesday, December 22, 2020 by Jo Clifton

Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Twitter Monday that he had received draft language to seize Austin’s Police Department and put it under the control of the Texas Department of Public Safety “just in time for Christmas.”

The Austin Police Association, which has been particularly unhappy with City Council’s work to reimagine public safety, tweeted, “Looking forward to working with the 87th Texas Leg. on addressing problems caused by Austin City Council. Defunding the police budget, canceling cadet classes, refusing to start a new academy class, & reducing specialized/investigative units is not the answer.”

Former state Reps. Terry Keel and Ron Wilson sent the proposed legislation to Abbott, noting it had been “reviewed extensively” by the Texas Legislative Council’s legal division.

As written, the legislation would require Austin to enter into a contract with DPS and transfer all of APD’s “personnel, property and liabilities that relate to the municipality’s provision of law enforcement services, including all employees, equipment, facilities, contracts and other assets.”

Mayor Steve Adler told the Austin Monitor via email, “We need serious conversations about how we keep Austin, an already safe city, even safer. But I don’t get the naked, political rhetoric. Austin has 16 more homicides this year and this kind of increase, happening in most all cities across the country, is of concern. But Houston had 31 homicides in the two-week period that ended Dec. 4 …. His draft bill would allow him to target cities that are insufficiently funding public safety (Sec. 411.542). The Texas Tribune reports Austin is spending 15% more per capita on police than Dallas, 14% more than Houston and 43% more than San Antonio. And the governor wants to target Austin?

“We need leaders willing to have serious conversations about public safety. If the governor wants to help (and we’ll take the help), we need greater support for mental treatment and housing for those unsheltered,” Adler concluded.

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