Austin City Council voted 9-1-1 on Thursday to restart the police training academy on a pilot basis by June 7, one year after thousands of residents marched in protest of police brutality and racial injustice. Council Member Greg Casar opposed, and Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison abstained.
"History will remember the 144th cadet class," Harper-Madison said, adding that she hopes its members understand the significance of their role in reimagining public safety in Austin.
Council approval has been meted out in stages. Members voted 8-1 to restart the academy on March 25, pending certain concerns about its curriculum were addressed, but withheld approval of a budget amendment that would fund the class. Since then, city staff have identified $2.2 million in savings, which means a budget amendment is no longer required, but city management still sought council's final approval.
The suspension of the training academy has exacerbated a years-long police staffing shortage. Although some council members argue that the academy can't be improved without a pilot program to assess which changes are working, others have expressed concern about the lack of support from community members and the city's own reimagining public safety task force.
Conditions for approval
Since late March, the Austin Police Department has completed 11 of the 23 conditions required by council and expects to complete the remaining 12 by May 31. "I want to assure Mayor and Council as well as our community that we're working diligently and urgently to fulfill our commitment to reimagining our cadet training academy," Interim Chief Joseph Chacon said during a council work session Tuesday.
Kroll Associates, a New York-based consulting firm hired by the city to review and assess the training academy, also delivered its final report on April 23, which recommends "a shift away from a stress-oriented military-style academy toward a resiliency-based approach" that offers scenario-based, rather than lecture-and-listen, instruction.
APD has already incorporated some of Kroll's recommendations, including lengthening its training academy program to 34 weeks from 26 weeks; increasing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) content; incorporating more community participation; and strengthening mentorship programs for minority groups.
Now that the pilot class has been approved, Kroll will serve as an independent evaluator, observing all DEI-related courses, community engagement programming and de-escalation and reporting back to council.
📢This week, #ATXcouncil will consider a resolution to restart police cadet classes.
Please consider emailing all Austin City Council Members and ask them to vote YES on item #10.
— Council Member Mackenzie Kelly (@MK6ATX) May 3, 2021
Cole Cunov, a policy analyst for the Greater Austin Crime Commission, said it's time to see how the "completely overhauled" curriculum works in practice, especially giving the estimated 130 officer vacancies at APD. "By the time this academy class graduates (in late January), we're going to accrue additional vacancies," he said. Restarting the academy will help "stop the bleeding."
Rebuilding community trust
The academy has been on pause since last July, in response to mass protests following the murder of George Floyd. Council then voted unanimously in August to cancel funding for three planned cadet classes as part of a broader set of police budget cuts. Prior to this, the academy had come under fire for its "fear-based" approach to training, discriminatory recruiting practices and attrition rates.
Thousands of Austinites marched from Huston-Tillotson University to the Texas Capitol on June 7, 2020, in protest of police brutality and racial injustice. (Emma Freer/Austonia)
For many community members, these concerns persist. Dozens of Austinites spoke in response to the March 25 resolution to partially approve the pilot cadet class, with the vast majority opposed.
Paula Rojas, co-chair of the reimagining public safety task force, told council members their partial approval was disheartening. "When City Council moved forward and voted for restarting the APD police academy, despite our formal task force vote against it and many testimonies the day of your vote," she said at an April 20 council work session. "At that point, many task force members wanted to walk away from the process altogether."
Council Member Alison Alter offers two amendments to the resolution related to additional reporting requirements. "Sunshine on this process and council attention is important to reassure our community that we are committed," she said Tuesday. "We're moving forward, but this is a pilot and … we may not get it all right this time."
- List of proposed changes to Austin Police Department after protests ... ›
- Austin City Council OKs another third-party investigation of APD ... ›
- Gov. Abbott signs anti-defunding pledge after Austin police cuts ... ›
- Austin City Council votes to resume police training academy - austonia ›
- Reports find racial disparities, hazing concerns at Austin PD - austonia ›
Austin Nicholson was ahead of the curve when he got his vasectomy in September 2021, saving himself a long line as Austin-area doctors say the demand for sterilization has seen a “significant” spike since Roe v. Wade was overturned on Friday.
Nicholson, 25, said he would prefer to adopt children, had felt the Supreme Court decision coming for a while, and, wary of the consequences, he decided to pull the trigger and make an appointment.
“A big part of it was the political climate. We could both potentially face consequences and she would definitely face more consequences, which I also personally would not want,” Nicholson said. “I didn't want to be stuck in Texas and have a potential abortion on the mind when it's illegal.”
According to vasectomy specialist Dr. Luke Machen of Austin Fertility and Reproductive Medicine, the clinic received over 150 vasectomy appointment requests combined on Friday and Monday following the ruling. Typically, the clinic performs 45-50 vasectomies per month.
The Austin Urology Institute reported that they received about 70 calls in the first hour after the ruling was released. OBYN at Women’s Health Domain reported receiving over 100 requests from women interested in getting their tubes tied.
“I would say a significant number of patients who scheduled recently have mentioned the Supreme Court case,” Machen said. “A lot of guys have said they were thinking about having a vasectomy over the last year or so, and the ruling was the final push to get it done.”
The average patient at Austin Fertility who receives a vasectomy is about 37, though Machen said he has started to see an increased number of patients with zero children choosing to get a vasectomy. While they put together a study, Machen expects demand for the procedure to plateau but stay higher than before the ruling.
Machen said vasectomy is the most effective form of permanent birth control, requires only about a week of recovery time, is reversible with success rates of up to 95% and has no effects on sexual function or testosterone.
Nicholson said the procedure was less than $700, he was never in any pain, had very little recovery time and has never regretted the decision—in fact, he has happily recommended the procedure to friends.
“It helps me feel better knowing that I won't put a woman in that situation where she'd have to be faced with a potentially life-altering decision, or consequence even,” Nicholson said. “I actually have had three of my friends ask me questions about it and tell me that they were considering it.”
Enjoy live music all weekend long and check out the hotels’ state-of-the-art amenities between sets. Make a splash in the pool, enjoy outdoor fire pits, or challenge your friends in a yard game while enjoying a weekend full of live music! Did we mention the package includes deluxe accommodations and a bucket of beer? Oh, and if you needed more convincing, this pet-friendly hotel means the whole family can join in on the fun.
Explore any of the Court Hotels by Valencia Hotel Group for a memorable escape. Each property offers a unique experience remnant of yesteryear but with all of the modern amenities that make for a fun and comfortable stay. With acres of landscaped courtyards, relax and unwind in an outdoor environment perfect for doing everything or absolutely nothing at all. With locations in Austin, College Station, Irving, and Lubbock your urban retreat has never been so close.
Locals and travelers alike are invited to enjoy the deep roots of Texas music all summer long with a robust lineup of live performances. From the banks of the San Antonio Riverwalk to Irving’s manicured streets, Valencia’s hotels are a place to gather and reconnect, offering uniquely Texan settings for the weekly performances.
“We’re proud of the community we’ve fostered among Texas musicians and the many rising stars who perform at our properties,” says Amy Trench, corporate director of brand marketing & PR for Valencia Hotel Group.
With unique programming at each of Valencia’s properties, there’s something for everyone to enjoy all summer long.
If you’re a Valencia Hotel Group Rewards member, the perks are plentiful. Enjoy up to 10% off the Best Available Rate, and for a limited time, members can save up to 15% off a stay of 2 nights or more, for select stays in 2022.
But that’s really just the beginning. At select locations, you can enjoy discounts on weeknight stays, a complimentary third night, or curated packages for a romantic getaway or a night of watching the Verde at Q2 Stadium. You’ll also find special rates for AAA and AARP Members, educators, and front-line heroes including military, law enforcement, fire, and rescue workers.