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Austin police should budget for 100 more patrol officers, study says. Chief unsure if he’ll ask for funds.

Thursday, January 13, 2022 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

The Austin Police Department should budget for 108 more patrol officers to respond to emergency calls more quickly, researchers hired by the nonprofit Greater Austin Crime Commission say.

In an analysis of about 2 million 911 calls going back to 2016, researchers with the University of New Haven and Texas State University determined officers had a better chance of arresting a suspect and retrieving a firearm if they responded to the most pressing calls in 6 minutes and 30 seconds, or less. Austin police got to the scenes of these millions of calls within 7 to 8 minutes, on average.

To reduce response times, researchers wrote, APD would need to budget for 882 patrol officers; currently, the department has the funding to hire 774 patrol officers.

At a virtual press conference Tuesday, APD Chief Joseph Chacon said that, while he supported the researchers’ work, he did not consider their recommendations to be the final word on staffing needs for the department.

“This model will be one of several tools that we use to help us achieve the right balance for the department and the community,” he said. “But it’s a very, very important tool. It’s one that I think really informs and tells me with a high degree of certainty exactly how many officers I need to achieve the metrics we’re trying to achieve.”

Chacon couldn’t yet say whether he planned to use the study to ask the City Council for additional funding to hire more officers, but he said he would make that decision in the next several weeks.

“I don’t want to say that I’m going to come in for a midyear budget adjustment right now,” he said.

In November, Austin voters got a chance to weigh in on police staffing and ultimately rejected Proposition A, which would have tied the number of officers to the city’s population. If the ballot measure had passed, the city estimated it would have had to hire anywhere from 400-800 new officers over a five-year period.

Regardless of whether Chacon gets the money to hire additional officers, APD has long struggled to fill jobs it has the funds for. Since 2014, the department has routinely budgeted for 100 more officers than it has been able to hire.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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