AUSTIN, Texas — On Sunday, the Austin Police Department (APD) temporarily suspended the DWI and motors units and moved 69 officers to the patrol unit, according to an APD spokesperson.
This is in response to budget cuts, an officer shortage due to retirements, resignations and the lack of new cadet classes. The goal is to make sure the department has enough officers to respond to 911 calls. All officers on patrol will pitch in on traffic enforcement.
The head of the police union, Ken Casaday, said the city will feel the changes.
"That means that we no longer have officers inspecting large vehicles like 18 wheelers," said Casady. "We no longer have officers running radar in the school zone and on the highways, and we no longer have a unit with officers out enforcing DWI laws. So that is, again, a very toxic cocktail that this city is going to have to drink."
In June, an APD spokesperson said 33 additional officers were moved to patrol, as well. That's also when half of the Motors Unit moved to patrol.
"They move to these specialized units because their bodies start to wear down," said Casaday. "Now you're going to have 45, 55 and 60-year-old officers being sent back to patrol to answer 911 calls, and that's probably not the best for their health. I can tell you it's probably not the best for citizens either to have a 60-year-old showing up to 911 calls."
Casaday said the department is about 160 officers short. The first cadet class in over a year started in June. About 70 to 80 officers from this class are expected to graduate in February and to start patrol in May.
The APD also received funding for two more reimagined cadet classes in 2022, but Casaday said they've been losing 15 to 20 officers a month and it won't be enough to fill the vacancies.
He said the City will have to start providing bigger incentives like hiring bonuses and retention bonuses to get officers into Austin.
"We're going to be trying to hire between 200 and 300 officers, possibly next year," said Casady. "Well, so is Dallas, so is Houston, so is San Antonio and other big cities around this country. The competition is very tight."
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