Bus Cops Find Temporary Home

Cap Metro Board vote locks in temporary police station

Cap Metro interim CEO Dottie Watkins speaks about the temporary police station location Dec. 16 (Screenshot via City of Austin)

Cap Metro has found a temporary home for its police station – another step toward the creation of the public transit agency's police force. The Cap Metro Board of Directors unanimously approved a lease on 8200 Cameron Rd. in North Austin during a Dec. 16 Cap Metro Board meeting. The public transit agency aims to have the facility operational by the end of 2023 and is still working to determine exactly how the 9,246-square-foot space will look.

After facing significant backlash, Cap Metro interim CEO Dottie Watkins clarified that the station will not have a holding cell. Instead, Cap Metro is working to identify "appropriate spaces if we have someone that is disruptive" and will "partner with a local entity" for individuals who need to be held for longer periods, she said during the meeting.

Public safety was a point of conversation during the meeting's public comment. A handful of bus operators took to the stand to express concerns around how the transit agency is protecting them. "Many operators, my colleagues, have been assaulted and as a result of that, they quit. They resigned and they went somewhere else," one bus operator said. "The same way that the [MV Transportation] company likes to protect the vehicles, I want for MV to feel the same way about me – the way they want me to protect those vehicles."

However, public safety advocates remain opposed to the creation of a Cap Metro police force. João Paulo Connolly, Austin Justice Coalition's organizing director, said Cap Metro should focus on improving service instead of spending on a police force that could be especially costly. He acknowledged the need for improved safety, but said defaulting to police as the solution represents a "chronic lack of imagination" on the part of Cap Metro. "Then, to add insult to injury, comes this talk about renting out this expensive, new [office space] to use for a detention center, holding facility, and headquarters for the new police force."

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