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Austin City Council accepts state grants for police, but not without reservations

Austin City Council voted to accept four state grants totaling more than $1.3 million for the Austin Police Department on Thursday morning as part of its consent agenda.


Council members discussed the grants—which direct state funding to APD programs and projects supporting victim services and mental health first responders, among other initiatives—and whether accepting them would look like a departure from recent efforts to reimagine public safety spending.

"I don't want the public to think that we've taken our eye off the ball, even though many of these items seem perfectly great on the surface," Council Member Jimmy Flannigan said during Tuesday's work session.

City Manager Spencer Cronk assured council members that the grants would be awarded to the city, rather than APD, and that there would be flexibility in how the funding could be allotted in the coming months.

One additional grant—which would provide $128,019 for a program called Project Safe Neighborhoods—was postponed until next week.

The Project Safe Neighborhoods program would focus on reducing violent crime in the downtown and Riverside neighborhoods.

The grant, as proposed, would cover overtime pay for officers to perform targeted enforcement in those areas. But police staff said they are considering using the funds for a neighborhood liaison to work within the communities most impacted by violent crime.

Earlier this month, City Council unanimously approved a FY 2020-21 budget that included $20 million in immediate cuts to the police department, as well as promises to relocate certain duties and up to $130 million in additional funding to other departments over the next year.

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