What you need to know about the Austin City Council's wide-ranging proposed changes to police budget, policy
Spurred by more than a week of protests in Austin over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May and Mike Ramos by Austin police in April, members of the Austin City Council Judicial Committee have proposed sweeping changes to the way local police are funded and how they operate.
Here is a breakdown of each of the proposals on the agenda for the City Council meeting on Thursday.
Item 50: Zero racial disparity
Eliminates tolerance for racial disparity in police actions and in city departments by establishing the following goals, using the city's Strategic Direction 2023, adopted in 2018, and other audits and measurements ordered by the city in recent years.
- Zero racial disparity in traffic stops.
- Zero racial disparity in arrests and citations that result from traffic stops.
- Zero use-of-force incidents.
- Zero deaths at the hands of APD officers.
- Establishes zero racial disparity goals in other city departments in terms of mortality rates and shorter life expectancy, economic mobility, homelessness and housing insecurity.
Item 93: Creation of new committee
Eliminates the current City Council Judiciary Committee—which oversees the appointments of municipal judges, among other duties—and turns it into the Public Safety Committee, which oversees a broader range of areas including police, fire and EMS.
Item 95: Use of force
Severely limits, restricts or bans various uses of force by police, including:
- Use of tear gas and impact munitions: Police will no longer use tear gas, rubber bullets, lead pellets/bean bags or similar munitions against protesters exercising their First Amendment rights.
- Use of force: Bans shooting at people who are fleeing. Requires officers to employ de-escalation tactics and other reasonable alternatives before using force.
- Chokeholds: Prohibits the use of chokeholds and strangleholds.
- Military-grade equipment: The use, stockpile and purchase of military-grade equipment should be reduced as much as possible.
- No-knock warrants: The use of these warrants are reduced and are limited to circumstances when there is a high risk and no other option.
- Facial recognition: Enhanced facial recognition surveillance would not be used as a general policing tactic.
- New cadets and training: The July cadet class is delayed until an overhaul of training can be completed.
Item 96: Changes to the police budget
Directs the city manager to propose a budget that includes several changes for APD, whose roughly $400 million budget composes about one-quarter of the city's General Fund budget. The resolution also includes introductory clauses stating that the council has no confidence in the current APD leadership to institute needed changes.
- Includes no additional sworn police staff positions.
- Eliminates open positions through attrition.
- Reallocates unused funds to alternative strategies such as training for trauma-informed responses, substance abuse, mental health, community policing, family violence prevention, strategies for homelessness and more.
- Reallocates some positions and roles of the APD to other city departments, including code enforcement, transportation, public health, fire, and parks and recreation.
- Pursue options for moving some responsibilities to other "partner entities," including the local council of governments, constables or nonprofits.
- No additional funding for militarized equipment such as tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds.
- A rewrite of the APD's code (known as the General Orders) with the input of stakeholders who would use national best practices aimed at reducing police violence.
- Funds audits of police disciplinary records as well as the costs related to discipline of officers confirmed to engage in misconduct.
- Expansion of programs aimed at reducing or eliminating arrests for low-level, non-violent crimes with substitutes to incarceration, such as rehab.
- Increase staffing for mental health first response, and create alternative response to 911 calls related to mental health issues
- Funds for and training in the use of Naloxone to deal with drug overdoses.
- Requires City Manager to report all changes to the APD's General Orders to the City Council.
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