Austin Council Takes an Ax to Its Police Budget

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The Austin City Council voted unanimously to cut the police budget by $21.5 million, the first phase of a longer-term plan to reduce police spending by $150 million, or by about one-third, the Austin American-Statesman reports. The first cuts will come from canceling three cadet classes, slashing overtime, and other administrative functions. That money will be redirected to a wide variety of community programs and city departments, including violence prevention and victim services. The longer-term plan moves another $128.8 million from police to two transitional funds that will reassign civilian functions the police now handle and divert funding from police to alternative forms of public safety over the next year.

As Texas’ capital city joins the ranks of cities rethinking policing functions and spending, Texas Tribune reports that Austin’s 2019-20 police budget of $434.5 million ranks highest among Texas cities for per capita spending ($444) and for its share of the general fund (40 percent). Houston, the state’s largest city, spends nearly $900 million on police, but per capita that’s $388 and one-third of the general fund. The Houston City Council approved a minor funding increase to its police department in June. Dallas and San Antonio officials are considering budgets that make no big cuts to policing, but would increase spending on services outside their police departments for violence prevention or safety-net resources.

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