May 06, 2021 - 11:50 am CDT

The Austin City Council today approved moving forward with a reimagined Austin Police Department (APD) training academy in June. The 144th cadet class will be a pilot class, the first to complete training with the Academy’s new curriculum and expanded community engagement programming.

In March, the City Council approved the City Manager’s blueprint for the reimagined academy. The blueprint outlined a collaborative and iterative process of transforming the academy and creating a core focus on community input, emphasizing servant leadership, and curriculum and teaching methods that infused with diversity, equity, and inclusion.

New academy curriculum will include:

  • 30 more hours of community engagement programming,
  • a two-week community immersion orientation program,
  • anti-racism training,
  • a newly designed course on the history of police and
  • regular physical fitness training,
  • fewer week-long blocks of technical course content to allow for more effective implementation of adult learning strategies, and
  • a formal process of community and civilian input into training content to ensure that issues of racial equity and procedural justice are reflected in all aspects of cadet training

The 144th Academy will be 34 weeks long and is expected to begin on June 7, 2021. Kroll & Associates, an independent consultant will continue to evaluate APD’s readiness to launch and implementation of the pilot class.

The reimagined academy is an outcome of City Council Resolution 20191205-066 with a core focus on eliminating racial bias, bigotry, and discrimination in APD policies, practices and behaviors. The resolution directed City Manager Spencer Cronk to conduct an audit of recruitment and training policies, procedures, protocols and materials for cadets and officers, develop plan for continuing education for officers and management training for supervisors on eliminating racial bias, and to delay the start of a cadet class until this work was completed.

The resolution is part of the founding reforms under the Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) framework.  Details about this and other initiatives can be found on the RPS website in English and Spanish.

Apr 22, 2021 - 01:58 pm CDT

 

The Austin City Council today approved a series of mid-year budget amendments related to Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) Initiatives. The changes, focused on realigning City services and resources to allow the Austin Police Department (APD) to focus on its core mission of law enforcement, includes the creation of a new Emergency Communications Department (ECD) to handle emergency calls.

“Today’s action allows us to take the another step in creating public safety systems which remove barriers to access for everyone in the community while providing fast, equitable and appropriate response and resources to those who call for help in their time of need,” said City Manager Spencer Cronk.   

The new ECD allows for increased independence and provides an opportunity to streamline and provide continuous improvement in emergency communications including expanded public health and mental health response initiatives.  

The accompanying budget amendment moves 222 full-time equivalent civilian (FTEs) positions out of APD as well as $16,085,640 out of the Decouple Fund into an annual budget for the ECD.  “My office and APD leadership are working together to develop a timeline for establishing this new department. Input from staff will be a key part of that process,” said Cronk. There will not be any immediate changes in day-to-day emergency communications operations. The transition to the ECD could take up to one year. The department will report to the Assistant City Manager for Public Safety.

The mid-year budget amendment also moves a number of administrative functions from APD to other city departments including:

  • Transfers the positions and funding for the APD Alarm Administration Unit to the Development Services Department.
  • Transfers APD Human Resources to the City’s general Human Resources Department.
  • Transfers the APD Public Information Office to the Communication and Public Information Office.
  • Transfers APD Facility Maintenance to the Building Services Department.
  • Transfers APD Finance to the Financial Services Department.

More information on reimagining initiatives is available on the RPS website in English and Spanish .

 

Mar 24, 2021 - 01:31 pm CDT

 

The idea of public safety underlies numerous public policy decisions and laws, as well as many of the choices that each of us make in our everyday lives. But, what is it? What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “public safety”?  

Legal scholars define public safety as “the protection of the general public,” and they reference groups like police officers and firefighters as Public Safety Officers. Many governments form their policies on this idea of protecting people’s physical welfare. They often focus on combating crime in an effort to help community members feel secure, and they hire for roles like law enforcement officers and medical emergency responders. 

On the other hand, the psychologist Abraham Maslow used a much broader definition of safety in his famous “Hierarchy of Human Needs” model. He said that one of the most fundamental needs that we have is safety. This includes not only physical safety but also security of our health, money, belongings, jobs, and families.  

It might be easier to define public safety based on what happens when it’s missing. Imagine what your day, life, workplace, or community might look like without public safety. For instance, a lack of public safety might mean that the highway overpass near your house isn’t stable enough to drive on, the local park is overrun with used needles and other toxic garbage, or the water coming out of the faucet isn’t clean enough to drink.  

Beyond your day-to-day well-being, also think about the emotional toll that you might experience if you are afraid that you will be harmed physically, are concerned your child could catch a disease at school, or don’t know whether you’ll still have a job next week. In addition to immediate impacts, studies suggest that a lack of public safety might also have lingering effects on individuals, their loved ones, and the broader community.  

For example, emerging research from the National Institutes of Health indicates that victims of crimes might continue to suffer from a traumatizing event many years after the crime occurs. This lingering trauma and stress might affect the survivor’s health, job performance, personal relationships, and many other vital parts of life.  

Needless to say, “public safety” is a complex topic – one that city and community leaders across Austin are striving to address with the Reimagining Public Safety initiative. Some of the ways the City has begun to tackle this complicated topic are by working to address some of the root issues that can disrupt public safety, as well as looking at issues that currently strain public safety resources but could possibly be addressed in other ways. 

For example, in February 2021, Austin added a “mental health” option to the 9-1-1 triage script. When you call 9-1-1 in Austin, dispatchers will now ask if need Police, Fire, EMS, or Mental Health services. Callers that choose Mental Health services are then routed to a trained mental health responder. The goal of this program is to get Austinites the services they truly need in the moment and reduce the time that police spend on calls that don’t involve an immediate risk to the public or to the caller’s safety. 

Another example is the City’s recent initiative aimed at addressing chronic homelessness by providing permanent supportive housing. The goal of this program is to get some of Austin’s most vulnerable people off the streets, and in turn, help ease the burden on public safety resources that have previously had to step in to fill the gap. 

Of course, this is just the beginning of Austin’s public safety journey. Our leaders know they have a responsibility to address public safety, but they also understand that any topic this important takes the input of the entire community to get it right. So, what do you think? What makes you feel safe at home, in your community, and at work? What resources might help prevent circumstances that make you feel unsafe or to deal with these situations when they do happen?  

We want to hear from you! Check out the Reimagining Public Safety site to tell us what public safety means to you, share your input on the resources you need for your community, and get the latest updates on how Austin’s elected and community leaders  are working to create a better future for all of us. 

Mar 02, 2021 - 05:43 pm CST

In November of 2020, as directed by Council Resolution No. 20191205-066, the Office of Police Oversight, in consultation with the Office of the City Manager, retained Kroll Associates, Inc. to review and evaluate the Austin Police Department on the extent to which racism and discrimination are present in the protocols, practices, and behaviors of the department.

The initial phase of the review was an assessment of the APD Training Academy and its ability to prepare cadets for policing in a multi-ethnic, diverse, urban population consistent with best practices.

Among the findings of this initial evaluation are the need for APD to: 

  • Increase racial, gender and ethnic diversity among the ranks of Academy instructors.
  • Balance the need for paramilitary training models with best practices of adult learning theories into curriculum and teaching methods and replace collective discipline techniques with Team Building Exercises (TBX).
  • Search for appropriate replacement training videos that more effectively depict best practices, as suggested by the Citizen’s Video Review Panel. And establish a formal system to review, with community input, all future video content that has not otherwise been reviewed by the panel.
  • Build a long-term system of internal and external review of training methods and Academy effectiveness.

The Kroll team presented their findings to the City Council and APD leadership in a public meeting on March 2nd, 2021. APD has accepted all the Kroll report’s findings and developed a plan to implement both the short and long-term recommendations.

After Kroll presented their findings and City Leadership had an opportunity to ask questions, City Manager Spencer Cronk thanked them for their efforts, along with the community voices that helped shape the recommendations.

The City Manager then indicated that next steps include implementing the short-term recommendations, developing a plan to implement the long-term recommendations, and gathering additional feedback from both the community and Mayor and City Council.

Once these objectives are met, the City Manager will put forth a budget amendment on the City Council’s agenda to restart the Academy.

Stay tuned to this blog and the RPS website for ongoing updates on this process.

For more information on the Kroll findings, click here.

The Austin Police Department response to the Kroll findings can be found here.

Feb 12, 2021 - 02:46 pm CST

 

 

The City of Austin has responded to longstanding requests from the community for a more appropriate response to mental health crises that are assigned to APD through 9-1-1.  As of February 1, 2021, 9-1-1 callers are now asked if they need police, fire, EMS, or mental health services. Implementing this important fourth option to the 9-1-1 call triage process is part of what is now called the Austin CARES initiative.

The program is an outcome of a series of recommendations commissioned by the City from the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute for Texas (MMHPI). City Council approved a contract with Meadows in October 2020, to work with City and community partners to implement those recommendations.

Adding the mental health option to 9-1-1 calls is the first step toward achieving the ultimate goal of diverting 100% of callers with a mental health component, which do not pose a risk to public safety, from law enforcement response.

MMHPI has not identified any other department in the country that includes mental health crises in the emergency call triage process, which positions the City as a leader in implementing this innovative approach as part of its efforts to reimagine public safety.  


Feb 05, 2021 - 03:56 pm CST

The commitment to maintaining public safety and making sure all people in Austin feel safe in their communities is a core value of the City of Austin. The city has focused on policing reform before the Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) initiative was launched in the summer of 2020, and some of the city entities that are part of RPS today were in place before.

This blog is designed to identify and provide a short description of the key teams that are working on RPS. Future posts will go into further detail about each of these teams and what they do.

Resident Input is a Cornerstone

Ultimately, you may be surprised to learn that YOU are in charge of RPS. As the specific descriptions will illustrate, resident and community input is a key part of the process and residents are included in variety of the teams. While direct participation on the commissions and task force may be limited, residents may provide their input in a variety of ways. For more information on how to make your voice heard, visit the Share Input page which lists all the ways to provide input.

The Teams and Their Functions

The following four groups are the primary entities involved in the RPS initiative:

  • Public Safety Committee of the Austin City Council:  Consists of four members of the Austin City Council. Reviews issues related to the public safety departments of the city.  
  • Public Safety Commission: An 11-member commission that advises the city council on budgetary and policy matters concerning public safety.
  • Community Police Review Commission: Consists of 10 unpaid volunteers appointed by the city manager and seeks to represent the community’s voice in policing and public safety 
  • City-Community Task Force: Created by the city at the start of the Reimagining Public Safety initiative in 2020, it brings together City staff and community members to co-create a framework for public safety to be reimagined. 

City Executives

City staff are also a critical part of the team managing RPS.

The team is made up of leaders from a wide range of City departments that work on public safety issues. Offices involved include the Office of Police Oversight, the Equity Office, Public Health, and many others. 

Key City Staff Include:

  • Deputy City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde
  • Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano
  • Interim Assistant City Manager Shannon Jones
  • Director of the Office of Police Oversight Farah Muscadin
  • City of Austin Chief Equity Officer Brion Oaks

Summary

Resident involvement and input is critical to RPS, and the City has dedicated a number of resources to the effort that incorporate your input along with city executives tasked with implementing reforms based on the guiding City Council Resolutions.

Stay tuned as we take a deeper dive into each of these teams and some of the key personnel involved.

Jan 28, 2021 - 12:51 pm CST

 

The short answer is no. Reimagining Public Safety is a holistic, multi-faceted initiative involving much more than just policing.  That said, the phrase means different things to different people, so let’s unpack the details. 

History of the term “defunding the police” 

This term started to become widely known in the early summer of 2020, following several incidents in which the actions of police officers led to the death or serious injury of residents, oftentimes from African American and other communities of color. The most well-known of these incidents was the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May 2020, which was captured on video. 

These events spawned massive street protests all over the United States and even in other countries. “Defunding the police” became a rallying cry for many protestors, including those from the Black Lives Matter and Movement for Black Lives groups.  

As a concept, “defunding the police” represents a big-picture desire to reduce or reallocate police funding to other social services such as mental health treatment, education, healthcare, housing, and poverty remediation. For some, it means relatively small to incremental police budget re-allocations, while to others it means significant reductions and even the elimination of police departments as they are known today.  

Because ”defund the police” means different things to different people and communities, and because it does not refer to a specific policy or platform of specific actions, “defunding the police” can be misleading when it is used in reference to the actions of any governmental entity. 

Reimagining Public Safety in Austin 

In light of the recurring incidents of police related violence and its disproportionate impact on communities of color in Austin and nationwide, the Austin City Council passed a series of transformative resolutions aimed at public safety reform. Those resolutions, along with on-going police reform initiatives implemented before 2020 form the foundation of the City’s Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) framework.  The goal of RPS is to re-think, and in some cases, re-design public safety resources to eliminate service disparities across communities and meet the needs of all residents equitably. 

That means making organizational, cultural changes, and updates/modifications to policies and procedures to enhance public safety services.  That includes:  New approaches to eliminate practices and training which support a culture of discrimination and bias, investing in stronger mental crisis and general public response systems to bridge gaps long covered by the City’s public safety entities, improving police-community relationships, and much more. 

Resources for further reading

We have a lot of resources to help you better understand all the facets of Austin’s RPS efforts, starting right here on the RPS website which is serves as a one-stop-shop information hub. Here is a rundown of the sections of the site you might want to check regularly: 

About tab: Provides an overview of the RPS initiative including key teams and their efforts 

Reforms tab: Covers the specific actions that the City is undertaking 

Documents tab: Contains reports, memos, and other records  

Share Input tab: Offers residents the opportunity to ask questions and provide their input 

 Stay tuned for more blog posts that cover other aspects of this important initiative!

Dec 22, 2020 - 02:30 pm CST

 

 

 

Several new community conversations have been scheduled for January. Incorporating resident input is critical on the path to creating a public safety service that works for all.

Community conversations are a great opportunity for residents to join the discussion about how public safety and the police should work in Austin. The meetings are conducted virtually via Zoom. Each session is facilitator-led and goes through a series of real-life scenarios in which the police may be involved.

The District sessions are for residents of that district, but the Citywide meetings are open to anyone who lives or works in Austin. The January 16th session will be conducted entirely in Spanish. While the other meetings are in English, they are interpreted in Spanish.

Please note that the January 20th Citywide session has been rescheduled to January 23rd at 11:00 a.m.

Council District 10 has added a community conversation for its residents, scheduled for Saturday, January 30th at 10 a.m. Please click here to RSVP.

Take advantage of these meetings to make your voice heard! If big meetings aren't your preference, there are several other ways to provide input.

Click here RSVP for a community conversation or to learn about other feedback options.

Dec 10, 2020 - 04:02 pm CST

 

Graphic showing people on a virtual video conference and states "Reimagining Public Safety Community Conversation."

 

Community organizations play a vital role in Austin, and the Reimagining Public Safety initiative wants to hear from you. To that end, community organizations are invited to host Reimagining Public Safety meetings for their members, from now through January 31, 2021.

Community conversations are virtual meetings at which attendees provide candid feedback on how policing should work in a number of real-life scenarios, ranging from a domestic disturbance to a mental health issue to police on the beat. The feedback will be aggregated and made part available to city leadership as part of their decision making process. In many cases members of the Austin Police Department will sit in on the meetings, to hear from the community firsthand. 

As of early December 2020 three organizations have held community conversations, and six more will be held throughout the month. Another 10 more are scheduled for January 2021. 

The United Way of Greater Austin was one of the first organizations to host a community conversation. Cathy McHorse of the United Way of Greater Austin summarized her organization’s meeting this way:  

 

“The Austin/Travis County Success By 6 and 2-Gen Coalitions recently hosted a Reimagining Public Safety Community Conversation using the City of Austin Toolkit. The organizations that participated work closely with families with low income who have young children  - and their voices are often missing from conversations about public safety.  The Community Conversation not only provided a means for staff at local organization to share ideas and feedback on the reimagining public safety process, but also amplified the voices of parents with lived experience to do the same.” 

 

If you’re wondering how your organization would host a meeting, here are the answers to a few key questions: 

 

What is my role, as a community organization, in this initiative?  

The Mayor and City Council are committed to listening to the community and taking its feedback into account as public safety is redefined and reformed. By facilitating a listening and engagement session, your organization can ensure that its and its members’ voices are heard in this important process. Your participation also helps us ensure that we incorporate broad-based feedback from across Austin. 

 

How do I conduct a community conversation? 

The Communications and Public Information Office’s RPS team has created a toolkit that will show you how to conduct a session. The toolkit includes a step-by-step agenda and script to conduct the meeting. 

 

Will the City help us put on a listening session? 

Yes! A member of the RPS team is available to walk you through the session toolkit and prepare you to host the meeting. This representative can answer any questions you may have. 

 

Are the meetings virtual? 

Yes. Given the current COVID19 situation, the meetings are facilitated via your organization’s Zoom account. 

 

Are multiple languages supported? 

Yes! We can provide meeting toolkits in the following languages: Spanish, Arabic, Burmese, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Hindi, Urdu, Korean, and Vietnamese.  

 

What will be done with the information? 

Your organization's feedback will be shared with City leaders who will use the information to drive meaningful police reform that meets the needs of all Austin residents.  

 

Will the meeting content be controversial or potentially uncomfortable for my members? 

The subject matter covers matters of safety, policing, and difficult situations that could be uncomfortable for some attendees. The meeting agenda will address the potential for triggering content, however, and attendees may opt out at that time if desired. 

 

How do we get started? 

Dec 04, 2020 - 03:10 pm CST

 

Welcome to the Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) Blog! We'll be posting here regularly to provide insight on the latest developments in the City of Austin's RPS initiative. The blog is also designed to help you navigate this website and the wealth of information it offers. 

The Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) initiative is a multi-faceted and collaborative effort focused on ensuring our public safety system meets the needs of all those who live and work in Austin. This initiative builds on a number of public safety reforms implemented over the last several years. 

While the blog offers up-to-date news and information about RPS, the website is designed to serve as the initiative’s home plate. It contains a good deal of information about the initiative’s foundation and early history. For example: 

  • The Home page (austintexas.gov/publicsafety) provides the basics of RPS at a glance, including a timeline of major actions taken by the City Council and staff. You can also signup for the newsletter here. From the homepage you can navigate to a variety of pages that go into further detail, including monthly reports that chronicle ongoing efforts and accomplishments.
  • The About page discusses how the RPS initiative came into being and outlines the teams working on the effort and their functions. 
  • The Share Input page is where you will find a comprehensive list of meetings and other ways to provide your thoughts and input on how policing should work in Austin. 
  • The Reforms tab will take you to detailed information about five key areas of reform, including the budget and use of force policies just to name two.
  • Browse the site to learn more about RPS. If you have any thoughts on RPS or the website, you can always email us

Above all else we want you to join the conversation and make your voice heard. Resident input is critical to designing a public safety capability that works for all. The next blog will walk you through all the different ways to join the conversation and making your voice heard. 

Apr 22, 2021 - 01:58 pm CDT

 

The Austin City Council today approved a series of mid-year budget amendments related to Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) Initiatives. The changes, focused on realigning City services and resources to allow the Austin Police Department (APD) to focus on its core mission of law enforcement, includes the creation of a new Emergency Communications Department (ECD) to handle emergency calls.

“Today’s action allows us to take the another step in creating public safety systems which remove barriers to access for everyone in the community while providing fast, equitable and appropriate response and resources to those who call for help in their time of need,” said City Manager Spencer Cronk.   

The new ECD allows for increased independence and provides an opportunity to streamline and provide continuous improvement in emergency communications including expanded public health and mental health response initiatives.  

The accompanying budget amendment moves 222 full-time equivalent civilian (FTEs) positions out of APD as well as $16,085,640 out of the Decouple Fund into an annual budget for the ECD.  “My office and APD leadership are working together to develop a timeline for establishing this new department. Input from staff will be a key part of that process,” said Cronk. There will not be any immediate changes in day-to-day emergency communications operations. The transition to the ECD could take up to one year. The department will report to the Assistant City Manager for Public Safety.

The mid-year budget amendment also moves a number of administrative functions from APD to other city departments including:

  • Transfers the positions and funding for the APD Alarm Administration Unit to the Development Services Department.
  • Transfers APD Human Resources to the City’s general Human Resources Department.
  • Transfers the APD Public Information Office to the Communication and Public Information Office.
  • Transfers APD Facility Maintenance to the Building Services Department.
  • Transfers APD Finance to the Financial Services Department.

More information on reimagining initiatives is available on the RPS website in English and Spanish .

 

Reimagining Public Safety Blog
Mar 24, 2021 - 01:31 pm CDT

 

The idea of public safety underlies numerous public policy decisions and laws, as well as many of the choices that each of us make in our everyday lives. But, what is it? What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “public safety”?  

Legal scholars define public safety as “the protection of the general public,” and they reference groups like police officers and firefighters as Public Safety Officers. Many governments form their policies on this idea of protecting people’s physical welfare. They often focus on combating crime in an effort to help community members feel secure, and they hire for roles like law enforcement officers and medical emergency responders. 

On the other hand, the psychologist Abraham Maslow used a much broader definition of safety in his famous “Hierarchy of Human Needs” model. He said that one of the most fundamental needs that we have is safety. This includes not only physical safety but also security of our health, money, belongings, jobs, and families.  

It might be easier to define public safety based on what happens when it’s missing. Imagine what your day, life, workplace, or community might look like without public safety. For instance, a lack of public safety might mean that the highway overpass near your house isn’t stable enough to drive on, the local park is overrun with used needles and other toxic garbage, or the water coming out of the faucet isn’t clean enough to drink.  

Beyond your day-to-day well-being, also think about the emotional toll that you might experience if you are afraid that you will be harmed physically, are concerned your child could catch a disease at school, or don’t know whether you’ll still have a job next week. In addition to immediate impacts, studies suggest that a lack of public safety might also have lingering effects on individuals, their loved ones, and the broader community.  

For example, emerging research from the National Institutes of Health indicates that victims of crimes might continue to suffer from a traumatizing event many years after the crime occurs. This lingering trauma and stress might affect the survivor’s health, job performance, personal relationships, and many other vital parts of life.  

Needless to say, “public safety” is a complex topic – one that city and community leaders across Austin are striving to address with the Reimagining Public Safety initiative. Some of the ways the City has begun to tackle this complicated topic are by working to address some of the root issues that can disrupt public safety, as well as looking at issues that currently strain public safety resources but could possibly be addressed in other ways. 

For example, in February 2021, Austin added a “mental health” option to the 9-1-1 triage script. When you call 9-1-1 in Austin, dispatchers will now ask if need Police, Fire, EMS, or Mental Health services. Callers that choose Mental Health services are then routed to a trained mental health responder. The goal of this program is to get Austinites the services they truly need in the moment and reduce the time that police spend on calls that don’t involve an immediate risk to the public or to the caller’s safety. 

Another example is the City’s recent initiative aimed at addressing chronic homelessness by providing permanent supportive housing. The goal of this program is to get some of Austin’s most vulnerable people off the streets, and in turn, help ease the burden on public safety resources that have previously had to step in to fill the gap. 

Of course, this is just the beginning of Austin’s public safety journey. Our leaders know they have a responsibility to address public safety, but they also understand that any topic this important takes the input of the entire community to get it right. So, what do you think? What makes you feel safe at home, in your community, and at work? What resources might help prevent circumstances that make you feel unsafe or to deal with these situations when they do happen?  

We want to hear from you! Check out the Reimagining Public Safety site to tell us what public safety means to you, share your input on the resources you need for your community, and get the latest updates on how Austin’s elected and community leaders  are working to create a better future for all of us. 

Reimagining Public Safety Blog
Mar 02, 2021 - 05:43 pm CST

In November of 2020, as directed by Council Resolution No. 20191205-066, the Office of Police Oversight, in consultation with the Office of the City Manager, retained Kroll Associates, Inc. to review and evaluate the Austin Police Department on the extent to which racism and discrimination are present in the protocols, practices, and behaviors of the department.

The initial phase of the review was an assessment of the APD Training Academy and its ability to prepare cadets for policing in a multi-ethnic, diverse, urban population consistent with best practices.

Among the findings of this initial evaluation are the need for APD to: 

  • Increase racial, gender and ethnic diversity among the ranks of Academy instructors.
  • Balance the need for paramilitary training models with best practices of adult learning theories into curriculum and teaching methods and replace collective discipline techniques with Team Building Exercises (TBX).
  • Search for appropriate replacement training videos that more effectively depict best practices, as suggested by the Citizen’s Video Review Panel. And establish a formal system to review, with community input, all future video content that has not otherwise been reviewed by the panel.
  • Build a long-term system of internal and external review of training methods and Academy effectiveness.

The Kroll team presented their findings to the City Council and APD leadership in a public meeting on March 2nd, 2021. APD has accepted all the Kroll report’s findings and developed a plan to implement both the short and long-term recommendations.

After Kroll presented their findings and City Leadership had an opportunity to ask questions, City Manager Spencer Cronk thanked them for their efforts, along with the community voices that helped shape the recommendations.

The City Manager then indicated that next steps include implementing the short-term recommendations, developing a plan to implement the long-term recommendations, and gathering additional feedback from both the community and Mayor and City Council.

Once these objectives are met, the City Manager will put forth a budget amendment on the City Council’s agenda to restart the Academy.

Stay tuned to this blog and the RPS website for ongoing updates on this process.

For more information on the Kroll findings, click here.

The Austin Police Department response to the Kroll findings can be found here.

Reimagining Public Safety Blog
Feb 12, 2021 - 02:46 pm CST

 

 

The City of Austin has responded to longstanding requests from the community for a more appropriate response to mental health crises that are assigned to APD through 9-1-1.  As of February 1, 2021, 9-1-1 callers are now asked if they need police, fire, EMS, or mental health services. Implementing this important fourth option to the 9-1-1 call triage process is part of what is now called the Austin CARES initiative.

The program is an outcome of a series of recommendations commissioned by the City from the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute for Texas (MMHPI). City Council approved a contract with Meadows in October 2020, to work with City and community partners to implement those recommendations.

Adding the mental health option to 9-1-1 calls is the first step toward achieving the ultimate goal of diverting 100% of callers with a mental health component, which do not pose a risk to public safety, from law enforcement response.

MMHPI has not identified any other department in the country that includes mental health crises in the emergency call triage process, which positions the City as a leader in implementing this innovative approach as part of its efforts to reimagine public safety.  


Reimagining Public Safety Blog
Feb 05, 2021 - 03:56 pm CST

The commitment to maintaining public safety and making sure all people in Austin feel safe in their communities is a core value of the City of Austin. The city has focused on policing reform before the Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) initiative was launched in the summer of 2020, and some of the city entities that are part of RPS today were in place before.

This blog is designed to identify and provide a short description of the key teams that are working on RPS. Future posts will go into further detail about each of these teams and what they do.

Resident Input is a Cornerstone

Ultimately, you may be surprised to learn that YOU are in charge of RPS. As the specific descriptions will illustrate, resident and community input is a key part of the process and residents are included in variety of the teams. While direct participation on the commissions and task force may be limited, residents may provide their input in a variety of ways. For more information on how to make your voice heard, visit the Share Input page which lists all the ways to provide input.

The Teams and Their Functions

The following four groups are the primary entities involved in the RPS initiative:

  • Public Safety Committee of the Austin City Council:  Consists of four members of the Austin City Council. Reviews issues related to the public safety departments of the city.  
  • Public Safety Commission: An 11-member commission that advises the city council on budgetary and policy matters concerning public safety.
  • Community Police Review Commission: Consists of 10 unpaid volunteers appointed by the city manager and seeks to represent the community’s voice in policing and public safety 
  • City-Community Task Force: Created by the city at the start of the Reimagining Public Safety initiative in 2020, it brings together City staff and community members to co-create a framework for public safety to be reimagined. 

City Executives

City staff are also a critical part of the team managing RPS.

The team is made up of leaders from a wide range of City departments that work on public safety issues. Offices involved include the Office of Police Oversight, the Equity Office, Public Health, and many others. 

Key City Staff Include:

  • Deputy City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde
  • Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano
  • Interim Assistant City Manager Shannon Jones
  • Director of the Office of Police Oversight Farah Muscadin
  • City of Austin Chief Equity Officer Brion Oaks

Summary

Resident involvement and input is critical to RPS, and the City has dedicated a number of resources to the effort that incorporate your input along with city executives tasked with implementing reforms based on the guiding City Council Resolutions.

Stay tuned as we take a deeper dive into each of these teams and some of the key personnel involved.

Reimagining Public Safety Blog
Jan 28, 2021 - 12:51 pm CST

 

The short answer is no. Reimagining Public Safety is a holistic, multi-faceted initiative involving much more than just policing.  That said, the phrase means different things to different people, so let’s unpack the details. 

History of the term “defunding the police” 

This term started to become widely known in the early summer of 2020, following several incidents in which the actions of police officers led to the death or serious injury of residents, oftentimes from African American and other communities of color. The most well-known of these incidents was the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May 2020, which was captured on video. 

These events spawned massive street protests all over the United States and even in other countries. “Defunding the police” became a rallying cry for many protestors, including those from the Black Lives Matter and Movement for Black Lives groups.  

As a concept, “defunding the police” represents a big-picture desire to reduce or reallocate police funding to other social services such as mental health treatment, education, healthcare, housing, and poverty remediation. For some, it means relatively small to incremental police budget re-allocations, while to others it means significant reductions and even the elimination of police departments as they are known today.  

Because ”defund the police” means different things to different people and communities, and because it does not refer to a specific policy or platform of specific actions, “defunding the police” can be misleading when it is used in reference to the actions of any governmental entity. 

Reimagining Public Safety in Austin 

In light of the recurring incidents of police related violence and its disproportionate impact on communities of color in Austin and nationwide, the Austin City Council passed a series of transformative resolutions aimed at public safety reform. Those resolutions, along with on-going police reform initiatives implemented before 2020 form the foundation of the City’s Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) framework.  The goal of RPS is to re-think, and in some cases, re-design public safety resources to eliminate service disparities across communities and meet the needs of all residents equitably. 

That means making organizational, cultural changes, and updates/modifications to policies and procedures to enhance public safety services.  That includes:  New approaches to eliminate practices and training which support a culture of discrimination and bias, investing in stronger mental crisis and general public response systems to bridge gaps long covered by the City’s public safety entities, improving police-community relationships, and much more. 

Resources for further reading

We have a lot of resources to help you better understand all the facets of Austin’s RPS efforts, starting right here on the RPS website which is serves as a one-stop-shop information hub. Here is a rundown of the sections of the site you might want to check regularly: 

About tab: Provides an overview of the RPS initiative including key teams and their efforts 

Reforms tab: Covers the specific actions that the City is undertaking 

Documents tab: Contains reports, memos, and other records  

Share Input tab: Offers residents the opportunity to ask questions and provide their input 

 Stay tuned for more blog posts that cover other aspects of this important initiative!

Reimagining Public Safety Blog
Dec 22, 2020 - 02:30 pm CST

 

 

 

Several new community conversations have been scheduled for January. Incorporating resident input is critical on the path to creating a public safety service that works for all.

Community conversations are a great opportunity for residents to join the discussion about how public safety and the police should work in Austin. The meetings are conducted virtually via Zoom. Each session is facilitator-led and goes through a series of real-life scenarios in which the police may be involved.

The District sessions are for residents of that district, but the Citywide meetings are open to anyone who lives or works in Austin. The January 16th session will be conducted entirely in Spanish. While the other meetings are in English, they are interpreted in Spanish.

Please note that the January 20th Citywide session has been rescheduled to January 23rd at 11:00 a.m.

Council District 10 has added a community conversation for its residents, scheduled for Saturday, January 30th at 10 a.m. Please click here to RSVP.

Take advantage of these meetings to make your voice heard! If big meetings aren't your preference, there are several other ways to provide input.

Click here RSVP for a community conversation or to learn about other feedback options.

Reimagining Public Safety Blog
Dec 10, 2020 - 04:02 pm CST

 

Graphic showing people on a virtual video conference and states "Reimagining Public Safety Community Conversation."

 

Community organizations play a vital role in Austin, and the Reimagining Public Safety initiative wants to hear from you. To that end, community organizations are invited to host Reimagining Public Safety meetings for their members, from now through January 31, 2021.

Community conversations are virtual meetings at which attendees provide candid feedback on how policing should work in a number of real-life scenarios, ranging from a domestic disturbance to a mental health issue to police on the beat. The feedback will be aggregated and made part available to city leadership as part of their decision making process. In many cases members of the Austin Police Department will sit in on the meetings, to hear from the community firsthand. 

As of early December 2020 three organizations have held community conversations, and six more will be held throughout the month. Another 10 more are scheduled for January 2021. 

The United Way of Greater Austin was one of the first organizations to host a community conversation. Cathy McHorse of the United Way of Greater Austin summarized her organization’s meeting this way:  

 

“The Austin/Travis County Success By 6 and 2-Gen Coalitions recently hosted a Reimagining Public Safety Community Conversation using the City of Austin Toolkit. The organizations that participated work closely with families with low income who have young children  - and their voices are often missing from conversations about public safety.  The Community Conversation not only provided a means for staff at local organization to share ideas and feedback on the reimagining public safety process, but also amplified the voices of parents with lived experience to do the same.” 

 

If you’re wondering how your organization would host a meeting, here are the answers to a few key questions: 

 

What is my role, as a community organization, in this initiative?  

The Mayor and City Council are committed to listening to the community and taking its feedback into account as public safety is redefined and reformed. By facilitating a listening and engagement session, your organization can ensure that its and its members’ voices are heard in this important process. Your participation also helps us ensure that we incorporate broad-based feedback from across Austin. 

 

How do I conduct a community conversation? 

The Communications and Public Information Office’s RPS team has created a toolkit that will show you how to conduct a session. The toolkit includes a step-by-step agenda and script to conduct the meeting. 

 

Will the City help us put on a listening session? 

Yes! A member of the RPS team is available to walk you through the session toolkit and prepare you to host the meeting. This representative can answer any questions you may have. 

 

Are the meetings virtual? 

Yes. Given the current COVID19 situation, the meetings are facilitated via your organization’s Zoom account. 

 

Are multiple languages supported? 

Yes! We can provide meeting toolkits in the following languages: Spanish, Arabic, Burmese, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Hindi, Urdu, Korean, and Vietnamese.  

 

What will be done with the information? 

Your organization's feedback will be shared with City leaders who will use the information to drive meaningful police reform that meets the needs of all Austin residents.  

 

Will the meeting content be controversial or potentially uncomfortable for my members? 

The subject matter covers matters of safety, policing, and difficult situations that could be uncomfortable for some attendees. The meeting agenda will address the potential for triggering content, however, and attendees may opt out at that time if desired. 

 

How do we get started? 

Reimagining Public Safety Blog
Dec 04, 2020 - 03:10 pm CST

 

Welcome to the Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) Blog! We'll be posting here regularly to provide insight on the latest developments in the City of Austin's RPS initiative. The blog is also designed to help you navigate this website and the wealth of information it offers. 

The Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) initiative is a multi-faceted and collaborative effort focused on ensuring our public safety system meets the needs of all those who live and work in Austin. This initiative builds on a number of public safety reforms implemented over the last several years. 

While the blog offers up-to-date news and information about RPS, the website is designed to serve as the initiative’s home plate. It contains a good deal of information about the initiative’s foundation and early history. For example: 

  • The Home page (austintexas.gov/publicsafety) provides the basics of RPS at a glance, including a timeline of major actions taken by the City Council and staff. You can also signup for the newsletter here. From the homepage you can navigate to a variety of pages that go into further detail, including monthly reports that chronicle ongoing efforts and accomplishments.
  • The About page discusses how the RPS initiative came into being and outlines the teams working on the effort and their functions. 
  • The Share Input page is where you will find a comprehensive list of meetings and other ways to provide your thoughts and input on how policing should work in Austin. 
  • The Reforms tab will take you to detailed information about five key areas of reform, including the budget and use of force policies just to name two.
  • Browse the site to learn more about RPS. If you have any thoughts on RPS or the website, you can always email us

Above all else we want you to join the conversation and make your voice heard. Resident input is critical to designing a public safety capability that works for all. The next blog will walk you through all the different ways to join the conversation and making your voice heard. 

Reimagining Public Safety Blog