A Guide to the Panels Working to Change APD

Safety in numbers


Photo by David Brendan Hall / Chart by the Chronicle Art Staff

The current city budget transfers about $20 million in funds from the Austin Police Department (freed up by deferring this year's cadet classes) into other services, with plans to reallocate another $130 million later in the fiscal year (ending next September). To do that work, City Council and City Manager Spencer Cronk have established a network of committees that are working out the details of "reimagining public safety." Here's a brief rundown of who's involved and how.

Council Public Safety Committee

Like other Council committees, the CPSC is a place where Council members can get into the weeds with staff on Council-approved policy initiatives and see what progress staff is making, what kinds of challenges they are facing, and if staff needs more input from Council – all in an open meeting setting. The committee is chaired by Jimmy Flannigan, with Greg Casar serving as vice chair; Delia Garza and Natasha Harper-Madison are the other members.

Public Safety Commission

One of the city's 50-ish permanent boards and commissions, this one (first formed in 2009) is the place where Council-appointed volunteers meet regularly (usually monthly) to gather community feedback on public safety concerns; hear from police, fire, and EMS leaders; and discuss new ideas for Council consideration. Usually, these take the form of policy recommendations voted on by the PSC and subsequently brought to Council agendas by individual CMs. Most recently, the PSC has held public discussions on the future of APD's headquarters at I-35 and Eighth Street after the building is eventually decommissioned – gathering input on both what APD's Down­town presence should be and what the community would like to see in place of a police command center.

Community Police Review Commission

Established by the 2018 meet-and-confer agreement between the city of Austin and the Austin Police Association, the CPRC replaces the Citizen Review Panel in prior police contracts. The CPRC volunteers, interviewed and appointed by Cronk, will review individual cases of police misconduct and "critical incidents," i.e., excessive-­force cases. Along with the Office of Police Oversight, the CPRC will recommend discipline against officers, as well as suggestions for changes to APD training, discipline, and community relations policies.

Reimagining Public Safety Task Force

This group of criminal justice advocates was vetted and assembled by Cronk's leadership team, and will operate alongside a city staff working group to flesh out alternatives to policing where that $130 million can be reinvested. For example: An audit of 911 calls found that a large number are raised by burglar alarms and that most of these are false alarms that don't require police response. Who, if anyone, should the city send instead? Similarly, if mental health calls are better served by medical personnel, what role should armed police officers play in those situations? The RPSTF will make recommendations on these areas to Cronk and his executive team, who will move to act on them through budget amendments or resolutions approved by Council.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Council Public Safety Committee, Public Safety Committee, Community Police Review Commission, Reimagining Public Safety Task Force

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