Following a lengthy meeting stretching over two days, the Austin City Council unanimously voted on August 13 to cut $150 million from the Austin Police Department budget over the next year. The multimillion-dollar cut accounts for more than one-third of the department's current operating budget of $434 million.
The vote comes following months of protests in downtown Austin, which included the death of one protestor, as well as cries from justice organizations and residents to defund the department.
Throughout the summer, resident speaker registration for council meetings has been dominated by discussions about APD, with the majority of Austinites demanding to drastically reduce the department's budget.
The plan, spearheaded by Council Member Greg Casar, will immediately strip APD of about $21 million and will cancel all three upcoming cadet classes. Then, over the course of the next 12 months, about $80 million in services that are currently under APD (i.e., 9-1-1 call center, victims' services, forensics, community partnerships) will be separated from the department, a process that will be overseen by City Manager Spencer Cronk.
The remaining $49 million will be part of the "Reimagine Safety Fund," which has "the specific goal to ... divert dollars from the fund toward alternative forms of public safety and community support" and will also be rolled out over the next year.
Reimagine Safety Fund hopes to reimagine facets of the current APD department, such as mounted and K9 patrols, park police, lake patrol, traffic enforcement, training, and overtime, and how they can be used in alternative ways.
"We have many fights ahead. Extreme, anti-civil rights voices will try to send us backward and are already working [to] mislead people about this vote," said Casar on Twitter following the vote. "But today, we should celebrate what the movement has achieved for safety, racial justice, and democracy."
The new budget is officially adopted October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021.