In the midst of staffing shortages that, according to police, have caused 911 response delays and fewer officers on the streets, state troopers will help the Austin Police Department with patrolling the city.
The move, according to Mayor Kirk Watson and other city officials, comes at no cost to the city, according to a news conference held on Monday afternoon.
How many troopers would be assigned to Austin’s police force was kept a secret by officials.
Why it’s important The unusual alliance between APD and the Texas Department of Public Safety is indicative of the more cooperative stance toward Republican state officials Watson, a pragmatic candidate who narrowly won the election in a runoff in December, promised.
The big picture: How to approach public safety remains a lightning rod in the post-George Floyd era, with Austinites divided about police spending.
Plus, Gov. Greg Abbott has floated the idea of a state takeover of the police department.
What they’re saying: Watson said the plan will reduce traffic fatalities, response times and increase police presence across the city.
“My top priority is that the people of Austin both are safe and feel safe,” Watson said. “This is a recognition that the police department needs more staff and we have a partner that can assist us. This partnership will improve safety and provide a runway as we recruit more officers and work to retain those currently on the force.”
Between the lines: City officials and the police union remain at odds over civilian oversight and pay as negotiations over a new police labor contract continue.
Watson insisted that the plan happened organically from a conversation he had with Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.