Jun 22, 2021 - 05:54 pm CDT

 

On a sunny afternoon, cadets who are hoping to become Austin’s newest police officers mowed grass, trimmed bushes, and pulled weeds at the Edgar Fincher III Program Garden. Their work helped prepare the garden for the next planting cycle and planted seeds to grow stronger community bonds. 

At the Austin Central Library, a panel discussion leads to two strangers, a community leader and a police cadet to connect over coffee and a conversation about culture and shared values. 

In a powerful and poignant meeting, cadets take their first steps toward learning how to serve survivors of abuse and domestic violence. 

A range of interactions and experiences—with one goal: fostering better relationships between Austin’s next class of Police Officers and the community members they will soon serve. 

The 144th cadet class of the Austin Police Department’s (APD) Police Training Academy began on June 7th, 2021. The 34-week session is a pilot class, the first to complete training using the Police Academy’s new curriculum and expanded community engagement programming as part of the City’s overall Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) initiative.

Community Connect 

The first two weeks of the academy centered around the new Community Connect program which focused on helping cadets get to know community leaders and other residents long before they put on a uniform.  

The range of opportunities included:

  • Community meetings: Members of various communities throughout Austin, with an emphasis on under-represented voices, were asked to meet with the cadets and provide their perspective on issues in their communities and what response they would like to see from APD. 

  • Meet and greet: On June 15th from 4:00-6:30pm APD hosted an informal meeting at Edward Rendon Park where anyone from the community could meet and get to know the new cadet class.  

  • Training with the SAFE Alliance (focused on serving survivors of child abuse, sexual abuse/exploitation, and domestic violence): On June 9th, members of SAFE’s leadership provided an overview of the organization’s efforts, and then its staff trained cadets on trauma-informed care, working with those in the disabled community, and victim services. 

  • Beautification and public space improvement in partnership with the Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC): Cadets worked on projects at seven locations across the City as a part of the community engagement phase of training. Collaborating on these community service projects builds on a longstanding partnership between APD and DACC, serving the community and providing compassionate services for individuals experiencing homelessness.

 
Projects took place across Austin: 
 
  • Landscaping at the Violet KeepSafe Facility which provides individuals experiencing homelessness a secure place to store their belongings.   

  • Twenty cadets completed graffiti abatement work on the pillars on 6th Street, 7th Street, and 8th Street under the Interstate-35 highway.   

  •  Another fifteen cadets assisted with yard clean up and recycling at the Fleet Services Emergency Vehicle Repair Facility on Hargrave Street. 

  • Twenty-five cadets used kayaks to patrol the banks of Lady Bird Lake to remove the trash and debris.  

  • Twenty cadets completed additional park beautification and graffiti abatement work at the Heath Eiland and Morgan Moss BMX Skate Park and the Shoal Creek Trail.   

  • Fifteen cadets worked in DACC’s Edgar Fincher III Program Garden to prepare it for the next planting season. All crops grown in the Garden are donated to local soup kitchens that provide meals for individuals experiencing homelessness. 
APD cadets meet and interact with the community at an event on June 15, 2021

APD cadets met and interacted with members of the community at the June 15th meet and greet.

APD cadets cleaning an I35 underpass

Cadets cleaned an I35 underpass in partnership with DACC.

APD cadets in kayaks remove trash and debris from Lady Bird Lake

Cadets took to kayaks to patrol and clean Lady Bird Lake.

Beyond the scheduled and planned community engagement events, the updated curriculum has already led to deeper connections between cadets and the residents they serve. In one case, a South Asian community leader who spoke to the cadet class extended an open invitation to drop by his home for a cup of coffee and a more intimate discussion about Indian culture. One cadet took him up on it and learned about one of Austin's ethnic communities, all while enjoying an Indian regional delicacy. 

“We want to teach them how to relate to people and how best to communicate and, in many cases, deescalate situations.” Interim Police Chief Chacon said. 

The  pilot class of the Reimagined Academy follows the City Manager’s blueprint which outlines a a collaborative and on-going process of transforming the academy and creating a core focus on community input, emphasizing servant leadership, and curriculum and teaching methods infused with diversity, equity and inclusion.

Jun 10, 2021 - 12:01 pm CDT

 

One hundred recruits started their journey toward becoming police officers Monday as the Austin Police Department kicked off its 144th cadet class. The 34-week session will be a pilot class, the first to complete training using the Police Academy’s new curriculum and expanded community engagement programming. 

Last month, Austin City Council approved moving forward with resuming cadet classes after accepting City Manager Spencer Cronk’s blueprint for a reimagined academy. The blueprint outlined a collaborative and on-going process of transforming the academy and creating a core focus on community input, emphasizing servant leadership, and curriculum and teaching methods infused with diversity, equity and inclusion.

Earlier today, City Manager Cronk and Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon addressed the cadets as they began the two-week Community Connect phase of training.

“Welcome to the 144th Austin Police Academy Cadet Class," Cronk said. "I’m excited you're all here today. Many of you came to the police academy for different reasons. But after you go through this you will all be united in one common purpose, to serve our community with dignity, integrity, respect, compassion and professionalism."

The City Manager also thanked APD instructors and staff for all of their hard work developing the training and curriculum to make this reimagined cadet class a reality.  

Chief Chacon told the cadets that the training in the months ahead would be tough, but he is confident everyone has the ability to succeed.

“We are transitioning from the military styled academy into one that is based on adult learning concepts and active learning,” Chacon said. “Our experience and academic research indicate it leads to a better experience for the cadets, and they’re going to take that knowledge and apply it in the field in a positive way.”

Video of City and APD leadership welcoming the cadet class is available to download here.

Key dates for the new Academy class include:
•    June 7, 2021 - 144th Academy Community Connect program begins
•    June 21, 2021 - 144th Academy Training begins
•    January 25, 2022 - Chief’s Run 
•    January 28, 2022 - 144th Academy Graduation

Forging deeper, more meaningful relationships with the Austin residents, is one of the key priorities for APD and the reimagined Academy. Members of the community will be given a chance to interact with the incoming cadet class from 4 - 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15, at a community meet and greet at Edward Rendon Park, 2101 Jesse E. Segovia Street. 

Community representatives will also participate in an academy training video and curriculum review committees through the academy session.  An independent evaluator will be on-site for the first week of classes as part of APD’s commitment to continually evaluate and improve academy training.

May 21, 2021 - 04:44 pm CDT

Learn More about the City of Austin Budget and take our survey!

Graphic requesting feedback on City of Austin budget.

It’s that time of year, and the City of Austin wants to encourage our residents to weigh-in as the City plans for its next Budget. It’s important that we hear from you and your families to help the City prioritize services that impact how you live, work, play, shop and more.

To learn more about the City of Austin Budget, view the full video by clicking on the links. While there take our short survey!

English video

Video de presupuesto en español

May 18, 2021 - 05:57 pm CDT

 

Public input is critical to creating a public safety capability that works for everyone. The City and the RPS Team continue to provide residents and community leaders with a variety of ways to make their voices heard. The hiring of a new police chief to lead the Austin Police Department provides just such an opportunity for resident feedback.

Background

On March 22, 2021 City Manager Spencer Cronk announced the City’s launch of the Chief of Police recruitment. To lead this recruitment process, City Manager Cronk has engaged Ralph Andersen & Associates, who has assisted 35 other cities in hiring their Police Chiefs across the country since 2016.

May Meetings

During the week of May 17th, a series of virtual community meetings will be held where you will be able to provide the Consultants from Ralph Andersen & Associates with your feedback as it relates to this incredibly important role.

Graphic listing the times and dates of upcoming feedback meetings.

Virtual meetings will take place via Zoom.

Click on the meeting date links below to join your preferred Zoom meeting:

Monday May 17, 2021                    12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Monday May 17, 2021                    6:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Thursday May 20, 2021                  9:00 am – 10:00 am

Friday May 21, 2021                        10:00 am – 11:00 am

Friday May 21, 2021                        2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

 

Other Ways to Provide Input

Those who cannot attend one of the meetings may still submit feedback via SpeakUp Austin: Your Next Chief of Police Recruitment Process or send an email to Community@AustinTexas.gov. All submissions will be taken into consideration.

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 are 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
  • regular physical fitness training
  • fewer week-long blocks of technical course content to allow for more effective implementation of adult learning strategies
  • 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.

Jun 10, 2021 - 12:01 pm CDT

 

One hundred recruits started their journey toward becoming police officers Monday as the Austin Police Department kicked off its 144th cadet class. The 34-week session will be a pilot class, the first to complete training using the Police Academy’s new curriculum and expanded community engagement programming. 

Last month, Austin City Council approved moving forward with resuming cadet classes after accepting City Manager Spencer Cronk’s blueprint for a reimagined academy. The blueprint outlined a collaborative and on-going process of transforming the academy and creating a core focus on community input, emphasizing servant leadership, and curriculum and teaching methods infused with diversity, equity and inclusion.

Earlier today, City Manager Cronk and Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon addressed the cadets as they began the two-week Community Connect phase of training.

“Welcome to the 144th Austin Police Academy Cadet Class," Cronk said. "I’m excited you're all here today. Many of you came to the police academy for different reasons. But after you go through this you will all be united in one common purpose, to serve our community with dignity, integrity, respect, compassion and professionalism."

The City Manager also thanked APD instructors and staff for all of their hard work developing the training and curriculum to make this reimagined cadet class a reality.  

Chief Chacon told the cadets that the training in the months ahead would be tough, but he is confident everyone has the ability to succeed.

“We are transitioning from the military styled academy into one that is based on adult learning concepts and active learning,” Chacon said. “Our experience and academic research indicate it leads to a better experience for the cadets, and they’re going to take that knowledge and apply it in the field in a positive way.”

Video of City and APD leadership welcoming the cadet class is available to download here.

Key dates for the new Academy class include:
•    June 7, 2021 - 144th Academy Community Connect program begins
•    June 21, 2021 - 144th Academy Training begins
•    January 25, 2022 - Chief’s Run 
•    January 28, 2022 - 144th Academy Graduation

Forging deeper, more meaningful relationships with the Austin residents, is one of the key priorities for APD and the reimagined Academy. Members of the community will be given a chance to interact with the incoming cadet class from 4 - 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15, at a community meet and greet at Edward Rendon Park, 2101 Jesse E. Segovia Street. 

Community representatives will also participate in an academy training video and curriculum review committees through the academy session.  An independent evaluator will be on-site for the first week of classes as part of APD’s commitment to continually evaluate and improve academy training.

Reimagining Public Safety Blog
May 21, 2021 - 04:44 pm CDT

Learn More about the City of Austin Budget and take our survey!

Graphic requesting feedback on City of Austin budget.

It’s that time of year, and the City of Austin wants to encourage our residents to weigh-in as the City plans for its next Budget. It’s important that we hear from you and your families to help the City prioritize services that impact how you live, work, play, shop and more.

To learn more about the City of Austin Budget, view the full video by clicking on the links. While there take our short survey!

English video

Video de presupuesto en español

Reimagining Public Safety Blog
May 18, 2021 - 05:57 pm CDT

 

Public input is critical to creating a public safety capability that works for everyone. The City and the RPS Team continue to provide residents and community leaders with a variety of ways to make their voices heard. The hiring of a new police chief to lead the Austin Police Department provides just such an opportunity for resident feedback.

Background

On March 22, 2021 City Manager Spencer Cronk announced the City’s launch of the Chief of Police recruitment. To lead this recruitment process, City Manager Cronk has engaged Ralph Andersen & Associates, who has assisted 35 other cities in hiring their Police Chiefs across the country since 2016.

May Meetings

During the week of May 17th, a series of virtual community meetings will be held where you will be able to provide the Consultants from Ralph Andersen & Associates with your feedback as it relates to this incredibly important role.

Graphic listing the times and dates of upcoming feedback meetings.

Virtual meetings will take place via Zoom.

Click on the meeting date links below to join your preferred Zoom meeting:

Monday May 17, 2021                    12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Monday May 17, 2021                    6:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Thursday May 20, 2021                  9:00 am – 10:00 am

Friday May 21, 2021                        10:00 am – 11:00 am

Friday May 21, 2021                        2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

 

Other Ways to Provide Input

Those who cannot attend one of the meetings may still submit feedback via SpeakUp Austin: Your Next Chief of Police Recruitment Process or send an email to Community@AustinTexas.gov. All submissions will be taken into consideration.

Reimagining Public Safety Blog
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 are 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
  • regular physical fitness training
  • fewer week-long blocks of technical course content to allow for more effective implementation of adult learning strategies
  • 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.

Reimagining Public Safety Blog
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