Austin police spending per capita grew 84 percent during a nine-year period that ended in 2006, while expenses in six other departments, including Dallas and San Antonio, increased 34 percent at most, reprts the Austin American-Statesman. Austin police expenses were more than two times higher than the other cities’ from 1997 to 2006. “These numbers are eye-opening,” City Council Member Brewster McCracken said. “It is a wake-up call about a concerning budget trend.”
Last year, the police department got $220 million of the city’s $593 million general fund, prompting city officials to ask for an independent study to see if costs could be reduced. The city auditor’s office and MGT of America Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in public safety operations, released dozens of suggestions, including hiring experienced police officers from other agencies to reduce training costs. Auditors obtained data from cities with a population of at least 450,000 that supplied information to the International City/County Management Association. Austin’s police cost rose $120 per person over nine years, compared with $59 for San Jose, Calif., residents, $49 for people who live in San Antonio and $46 for Dallas residents. Oklahoma City saw the smallest rise, with a $33 increase. Much of Austin’s expense was driven by labor contracts with officers.