Amid concerns about staffing shortages and ongoing problems at the 911 call center, several members of the Austin City Council are speaking out, following a chaotic scene in the city’s downtown area on Saturday night.
Austin Officials Expressing Concerns About Police, 911 Issues
Austin City Council members are expressing concerns about the city police department’s understaffing. There are worries about the ongoing issues with the 911 call center, following a chaotic incident that happened in downtown Austin over the weekend.
The intersection at South Lamar Boulevard and Barton Springs Road was overtaken by street racers who drifted in the middle of the street and set off fireworks while onlookers watched the chaos.
During the commotion, a law enforcement officer was injured and several police cars were damaged.
Council member Mackenzie Kelly expressed her concern over the police department’s vacancies and the ongoing problems at the 911 call center.
Austin policy makers are directly responsible for the overall safety of their citizens & visitors. Looks like they failed to make the right decisions & continue to defund, destroy, & demoralize public safety. Austin was one of the safest cities, NOT anymore. @Austin_Police https://t.co/j6OTTQE1ct
— Austin Police Association (@ATXPOA) February 19, 2023
During the incident, news of what was transpiring rapidly went viral on social media. Americans across the country subsequently took to Twitter and other similar platforms to weigh in with their thoughts about what was happening.
The city council in Austin, Texas warned of a potentially catastrophic event in case of large-scale incidents. This is due to the lack of support from the police department, which could put the city and its residents in danger.
911 Call Center, Grappling with Staffing Crisis
Austin City Council Member Alison Alter expressed her concerns over the ongoing problems at the 911 call center. She recounted calling 911 after encountering the street racers’ takeover, only to be put on hold for 28 minutes.
The 911 call center in the Austin Police Department has been grappling with a staffing crisis for several months, leading to lower minimum staffing requirements last August, due to high vacancy rates.
This is another sterling example of,you get what you vote for.This is The Capitol of Texas & Gov Abbott needs to toughen up & end this violence. Austin police, 911 staffing levels questioned after street racers take over major intersection, injure cophttps://t.co/ZAb48KUmQd
— Lady Tigress (@LadyConstance8) February 20, 2023
According to reports, the average hold time for 911 calls in October was 2.5 minutes, with only two-thirds of the calls answered within 15 seconds. This is well below the national standard of answering 90% of calls within just 15 seconds or less.
It is unclear whether the extension will include any additional funding or staffing for the department.
However, Kelly and Alter argued the extension was premature. They likewise made the case that more time should be spent reviewing and discussing the department’s budget and priorities before entering into a new agreement.
Council member Kelly emphasized the need for more police officers in the city, saying they are necessary for patrolling streets, responding to calls for service, and reinstating specialized units.
“We can improve reasonable police oversight,” she said, “but the simple fact is that we need more police officers in this city to ensure public safety.”
This comes amid ongoing negotiations between the Austin Police Association and the city on a new contract.