The 47 street officers will cost the city about $4 million a year. That $4 million includes equipment and supplies. It is money at least one city council member believes should be used for other public safety projects.
“We don't have enough people answering 911 which is easily measurable and has gotten worse over the last couple years,” said Council Member Bill Spelman. “We don't have enough people doing radio dispatching patrol cars. We don't have enough people doing crime analysis. We don't have enough people collecting evidence at burglaries.”
Council Member Spelman expresses skepticism that police workload has increased to the point to justify hiring more officers. Mike Levy and police brass counter adding the officers will keep the city at its stated goal of two officers per 1,000 citizens.
“I think what we need is a change in the policy,” said Spelman.
The city manager has tried to portray adding 47 new officers as "savings" by claiming the hires will be "postponed" for six months. But the fact is these are additional hires and costs, not savings in any way, shape or fashion. One could double the "savings" by simply not hiring any additional police officers in the coming year beyond those lost from attrition. After all, Austin's crime rate is low compared to other large cities in the state (and continuing to drop), so there's no immediate crisis to be solved. Meanwhile, Austin PD wastes 12% of patrol calls on false burglar alarms, spends too much time making false DWI arrests, and devotes too few resources toward investigating burglaries and other activities that rely on civilian staff. Even if the city had lots of extra money to give the police department, hiring 47 additional uniformed officers instead of bolstering civilian staff would still represent misplaced priorities. In the current budget environment, the proposal makes no sense at all.