Spencer Cronk announced a series of initial actions to begin addressing systemic inequities in policing.
City Manager Spencer Cronk announced a series of initial actions to begin addressing systemic inequities in policing. In a memo to the Austin City Council today, Cronk outlined a plan calling for the creation of Advisory Working Groups, reallocation of existing and future resources, and actions to increase transparency and accountability.
“I recognize that we must be deliberate and intentional in breaking down the systemic and institutional barriers in Austin,” Cronk said. “This is not just a law enforcement issue. This is a public health issue. This is a social services issue. This is an economic and housing issue. And this is very much an issue of trust and accountability. This proposal aims to tackle the root causes of these issues holistically, starting with reimagining what public safety means in Austin.”
The plan calls for creating a cross-functional team – co-led by the Dep. City Manager, the Asst. City Manager for Safety, and the Asst. City Manager for Health & Environment and Culture & Lifelong Learning – to lead the City’s reform efforts. Working with City staff, leadership will convene Advisory Working Groups to reimagine what public safety means for Austin and develop recommendations for making that vision a reality.
The Advisory Working Groups will include representatives from our advocacy, faith, public safety, and business community organizations as well as City staff from a variety of disciplines including the City’s Equity Office, Office of Police Oversight, Austin Public Health, and Austin Police Department to drive these vital conversations. These groups will work closely with relevant boards and commissions including the Council’s newly formed Public Safety Committee.
In addition to the Advisory Working Groups, the City Manager is organizing existing resources to ensure a comprehensive approach and will create a new Center for Excellence and Innovation.
“This is a complex and multi-faceted challenge that we must tackle head-on. Fortunately, this City has some very creative, passionate, and innovative people – both on staff and in the community – and I trust that, working together, we can bring about the change we all know is so badly needed,” Cronk said.
In addition to organizing existing resources, the plan identifies areas of consideration for upcoming budget deliberations. Due for release in mid-July, the proposed budget will provide opportunities for the City Council to consider new options for functions that have traditionally existed within the Austin Police Department. This includes questions concerning staffing, public health investments, and adjusting the scope of responsibilities of numerous City departments.
“Our budget is a reflection of our collective priorities and we have made progress over the last few years in increasing the portion of the City budget dedicated to public health and social services. In order to fully realize the promise of a new vision of public safety, however, we must rethink how we task and resource our staff and programs,” said Cronk. “Next month, I will bring forward a proposed budget for the Council’s consideration that is guided by not only Council’s recent direction, but also the spirit of the conversations occurring in our community.”
The City will also take steps to strengthen existing transparency and accountability systems such as launching a public dashboard to track progress, increasing the resources and authority of the Office of Police Oversight, seating the Community Police Review Commission this summer, and creating a Civil Rights division.
“Trust is essential in accomplishing our shared goals,” said Cronk. “The community is demanding greater accountability. Now, more than ever, we are committed to providing the transparency necessary to rebuild and strengthen trust with our residents and achieve an Austin that provides all people with the dignity, respect, and opportunity they deserve.”
City Management is scheduled to brief the Public Safety Committee on these efforts tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s Public Safety Committee meeting will be held via videoconference and is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. The meeting will be carried live on ATXN.TV. The Agenda for tomorrow’s meeting can be found on the City’s website.