The Forces Within the (Task) Force: The Working Groups
The Reimagining Public Safety Task Force included 17 community members representing organizations that have been active in police and justice reform, as well as five members of the city's management team (who abstained from voting on recommendations). To dive deeper into the issues and bring in more perspectives and expertise, the task force created nine working groups, which collectively involved around 50 more volunteers in the effort.
• Reimagining 911 and Non-Police Crisis Response
• Police Staffing: Patrol and Criminal Investigations
• Public Health Reinvestment
• Uprooting Punitive and Harm Culture in Intersecting Systems
• Patrol and Surveillance
• Business and Economic Development
• Equity Reinvestment in Community
• Meaningful Community Engagement
• Violence Survivor Services and Prevention
The Voices of the People in the Center
One of the RPS Task Force's working groups focused on community engagement, including the strategies used by the task force itself to involve not just a broad range of Austinites, but "those most directly harmed [who] stand in the center of the engagement and design of our recommendations." On April 10, after the task force released its draft recommendation, it held a virtual community listening session (with simultaneous translation in nine languages), which collected testimony from more than 150 Austinites and which was viewed on livestream by more than 1,200 others. In its report, the task force presents the following top 10 list as "a snapshot of what we heard":
1) Calls to divert funds from APD to community services such as substance abuse and recovery, COVID-19 care, and mental health services; affordable and accessible housing; ending food insecurity; and direct financial assistance to survivors of law enforcement violence and natural disasters.
2) Recurring stories from "community members being profiled, harassed, bullied, and falsely accused by the police because of their race, gender, language barriers, and citizenship status," as well as from family members of those killed by police.
3) Young people who told of being "targeted by the police and subjected to the school to prison pipeline."
4) The need for 911 call-takers who speak multiple languages for appropriate police (or non-police) response.
5) Stories of APD collaborating with U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport immigrant residents.
6) The needs of those experiencing homelessness for more housing, health care and counseling, and jobs.
7) The lack of trust created by police intimidation and brutality toward communities of color.
8) Beliefs that the police shouldn't be called upon because they either ignore problems or make them worse.
9) Health care "functioning as a pipeline for the police to criminalize people seeking care."
10) Using trained professionals other than police to respond to situations that are not crimes, such as mental health crises, traffic enforcement, noise complaints, or challenges faced by unhoused Austinites.