Sunday, August 30, 2020

Manley: "Oh, no! I have the same number of officers I did yesterday! Must make radical cuts to popular units to maintain patrol at current levels"

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley's disingenuous response to modest budget cuts (and major disempowering of him) demonstrates why, long before the George-Floyd protests began, a wide array of local community groups beyond criminal-justice reformers had called for his ouster.

Manley petulantly reacted to the council's new budget by presenting a plan to slash popular units and assigning those cops to patrol, claiming he was forced to do so to address 911 and traffic enforcement. This is a lie. I'd say it's silly, and it is, except that it has serious consequences because the local media takes his lies seriously and promotes them as "news." (Looking at you, Ryan Autullo and Tony Plohetstki!) That's the problematic part. All the insiders know what's really going on.

IRL, nothing changed for police management thanks to Austin's new budget. Several key units like the crime lab, Internal Affairs, and the 911 call center are being taken from the department's control, but none of that would affect patrol. Shortly after the new budget takes effect, there will be significantly more EMS staff in place to handle 911 calls that police admit should be handed off, so the budget decisions actually reduce pressure on patrol to respond to 911.

The only actual "cuts," $21 million, come from delaying the police academy. But it was already delayed until the department can finish an (overdue) audit and revamp problematic training practices. Just reviewing video will take months. I've not spoken to anyone who thinks a new curriculum can be developed before next year. Once a new training program is ready, cadet classes are eight months long. 

So APD wouldn't have had any new officers this fiscal year even if city council had granted them a spring cadet class. The idea that a vote in August necessitated radical staffing changes before the budget even takes effect on October 1st just isn't credible. There were no layoffs. APD has and will have the same number of staff that they did before. 

Finally, other units are being reevaluated, but that doesn't necessarily mean the jobs are on the chopping block. In fact, that process could free up officers. For example, it's possible the mounted unit could be disbanded because stabling the horses is too expensive. But I haven't heard anybody say those cops should be fired. Similarly, using park rangers instead of APD to address park safety doesn't necessarily mean police will be lose their jobs. It could, or those officers could become park rangers, or they could be absorbed back into the force to perform other tasks. Those decisions have yet to be made but for now, those officers are still on the force.

Because there are other initiatives being launched to try to peel tasks away from APD to reduce the need for more officers, it's not clear whether we'll need those extra officers from the mounted unit or park police in the long haul. But alternative programs may take time to ramp up and City Council has left themselves plenty of flexibility if they need to keep them.

Staffing isn't the problem. Crappy management is the problem. Brian Manley should be fired. And if he won't do it, so should Spencer Cronk. It's time Austin had a police chief who's willing to collaborate with the City Council and not make specious staffing changes to embarrass them.


Bad Wolf said...

It really befuddles me how useless the City Council is in dealing with this issue. A majority of elected Democrats / Liberals on the council and they cant seem to reign this guy in or hold him to account for the behavior of the cops during the protests. Its almost like a learned helplessness and makes me wonder what exactly is the point of electing them?

Manly should have been reprimanded when he refused the CC's directive to ticket rather than arrest low level cannabis possession (if memory serves). He should have been demoted / fired after the outrageous actions of the police during the protests.

Anonymous said...

If Scott Manley is going to keep publicly masturbating like this, can we put him on the sex offender registry?

quash said...

Accountability, keystone of good governance.

Tom said...

This is what can happen when you have a city manager form of government like Austin. The elected officials have authority over the city manager but he runs the city. Council can't interfere with the city manager's decisions on things like personnel -- i.e. the police chief.

As for budget cuts, if things like the 911 dispatchers and crime lab are out of the police department, the police department doesn't need the money to pay for them. When Houston took the lab out of the police department and set up a separate agency, I don't think the police department kept the money to operate the lab.
What apparently is happening is the city council is reorganizing the police department and if the only budget the cops are taking is for loss of a police cadet class, they should have more money in the budget for fewer responsibilities and employees.