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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After months of speculation, a new report says political personality Beto O'Rourke is mulling a run for Texas governor that he will announce later this year.
Sources tell Axios the former congressman is preparing his campaign for the 2022 election, where he will likely vie for the position against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The only other candidate that has announced he will take on Abbott for governor is former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West—no Democrats have announced they are running as of yet.
"No decision has been made," Axios reports David Wysong, O'Rourke's former House chief of staff and a longtime adviser, said. "He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."
A new poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler shows O'Rourke is narrowing the gap between himself and Abbott's prospects for governor. In the poll, 37% said they'd vote for O'Rourke over Abbott, while 42% said they'd vote for Abbott.
Abbott has been in the hot seat due to his handling of COVID-19 and the signing of landmark legislation into law, including new abortion and voting rights laws; 54% of poll respondents voted they think the state is headed in the "wrong direction." Still, Texas hasn't had a Democrat as governor since the 90s.
O'Rourke's people-focused approach to the 2018 Senator race, which he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, gave him a widespread following and many hoped he'd throw his hat into the ring since he said he was considering it earlier this year.
"We hope that he's going to run," Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. "We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott because he's vulnerable."
Austin rapper Jordi Esparza may not have won the 2021 Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, but for a spirited two rounds, the 22-year old Mexican native looked like he had every right to.
On Saturday evening in Los Angeles, the event itself looked like Cobra Kai meets Star Search with graphics adding a very Batman Beyond aesthetic. Over a dozen rappers hoping to represent the U.S. in the international round of the competition took to the stage with in-your-face jabs at accents, sexual orientation and odors, among other things.
This was Esparza's second rodeo; he had placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing him a spot this year.
However, things were different this year. He was not nervous about the contest. Unlike in 2020, when he made his Red Bull Batalla debut, the anxiety of the event led him to "feeling so bad."
Affecting a casual calm, the locally-based landscaper said he just felt "so relaxed, so happy" and primarily wanted to "enjoy everything."
Choosing his first-round opponent, Esparza, whose stage name is Jordi, elected to go against LA-based Boss.
Esparza freestyled an attack on his opponent's weight and cholo style of dress.
Boss—bracketing his Latin freestyle with English appeals to the crowd—mocked Jordi's lack of education, made fun of how clean Jordi's shoes looked and suggested that Jordi just came back from a Footlocker.
That first round went to Jordi.
But his next opponent Eckonn would prove to be his undoing.
Eckonn compared Jordi to Hannah Montana, while Jordi soulfully explained that he had learned from the best.
Esparza's verbal dexterity is matched by a rattling rhythm and a game face that is as mawkish as it is mockish. The overall effect is that of an underdog with bite.
Eckonn beat Esparza in that round with the overall championship going to Palm Beach-based rapper Reverse.
However, Esparza was just happy to be there. He recently told Austonia going to the finals again was a dream come true—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
With his nimble jabs and sneaky prowess, honed from pop culture and the swagger of a young working man hungry to be more, Jordi Esparza is just getting started.