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Austin Police Department cadets at the restart of academy training in June 2021, following an overhaul of the curriculum (APD)

As the Austin Police Department experiences high 911 response times and an officer shortage, a new study conducted reveals what would be needed to meet an ideal response time.

The study, funded by the Greater Austin Crime Commission and conducted by University of New Haven and Texas State University, analyzed six million officers and two million emergency calls. Police Chief Joseph Chacon announced Tuesday the study showed 108 patrol officers, for a total of 882, were needed to meet the six minutes and 30 second or less response time with a 95% degree of certainty.

Currently, APD’s authorized strength on patrol is 774 officers and the actual number of patrol officers fluctuates on a daily basis but according to Chacon, the department is currently operating at “well below” capacity. Plus, accounting for vacancies, the department would need to maintain 730 working officers.

The study looked at APD data from the past five years with the goal of helping the department and community achieve the right balance of patrol officers using two tools: machine learning analysis on how call response times affect public safety outcomes and a resident survey on community perception.

“It’s important that we recruit the right type of folks to be police officers in our community,” Chacon said. “We have a very robust and diverse recruiting unit that is working on doing that very thing for future classes. So it’s kind of a multi-pronged effort.”

At the same time, APDs 911 response times have been on the rise since 2016 and currently hover around eight minutes. There will be a new graduating class of cadets this month, and Chacon said the department will continue to work on reducing attrition and upping training capacity.

From there, Chacon said the next step will be to bring the data to the Austin City Council and community members to get feedback on how to implement changes indicated in the data in real life. Chacon said he will then update the community on plans to move forward.

“We pride ourselves as a police department in using data and evidence to make decisions, especially policy decisions that are going to make sense for our community,” Chacon said. “I will be working on these types of evidence-based efforts to put forward sensible plans that work to keep Austin citizens safe.”

The model, which Greater Austin Crime Commission President Corby Jastrow said is the first to use machine learning for this purpose, can be used continually for the most current findings. A second part of the model, which will look at non-patrol functions within the department, will be completed later this year.


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