Texas’ woke capital, Austin, is in the midst of a policing crisis with over 300 vacancies and cops quitting because they feel disrespected, multiple sources tell The Post.
“We’re right there with Portland and Seattle and San Francisco as being one of those places where if you’re at all conservative or in law enforcement, it’s become a hostile place,” Lt. Brian Moon, who retired last month, told The Post of the city he protected for 23 years.
Another 77 officers are expected to retire before the end of March — on top of 264 existing vacancies, according to the Austin Police Association.
Austin Police Department’s staffing is so bad, 911 calls are being re-directed to the 311 non-emergency number because there aren’t enough cops to solve crimes.
“If you come home and find your home burglarized, calls like that are now going to 311,” said police union president Thomas Villarreal. “You’re not getting a police response to many property crimes if it’s not a violent crime that is currently ongoing.”
The beleaguered department has also pulled detectives from solving cases to act as patrol officers, Berry said.
Moody, a former watch commander, started working for the Austin Police Department in 1999 and says things have dramatically changed. In 2021 the city recorded a record 88 homicides and although that number decreased in 2022, the first six months of the year saw dramatic increases in the number of rapes, with 179, and almost 2,000 aggravated assaults according to local news site KAXN.
“You could see that the city’s attitude towards its police department had started to shift and, personally speaking, I didn’t feel that city was really appreciating us the way they used to,” Moon told the Post Thursday.
“Austin had always been a pretty liberal-leaning city, but it was pro-law enforcement at the same time. They expected us to do things the right way, obviously, but they weren’t hyper-critical like they became.”
In 2020, the city council voted to defund cops by $150 million, slashing their budget by a third in the months after protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of the police, which sparked protests and clashes with the cops in Austin.
Elected officials also nixed three cadet classes and cut 150 officers from the budget.
Last year, the local District Attorney announced the indictment of 19 police officers accused of using excessive force against protestors in the 2020 protests.
“It almost felt like there was a target — like the District Attorney’s office and the city was looking for an opportunity to do something to you, to prosecute you or fire you, no matter if you did it right or did it wrong,” Moon stated.
In 2021, Austin chose to refund the cops, after it was told it would face losing its ability to raise taxes or annex land under a state law that was enacted to deter cities from taking money away from law enforcement.
Austin police should have about 2,000 officers for a city its size, but instead is only authorized to have 1,825 — although its current staffing levels are far below, the police union claimed.
“Who wants to work for someone that belittles you and demonizes you,” Justin Berry, a currently serving officer who was among those indicted in 2022, told The Post.
Potentially piling on the progressive policies, city voters will get to decide if they want to create a police accountability office later this year.
Mayor Kirk Watson has previously admitted the city has “unacceptably long waits” for police in a previous statement to The Post. Watson did not respond to a request for comment on upcoming cop retirements.
“Our officers work hard every day to provide a safer environment with the resources we have at hand,” read the statement. “We will continue strategizing about providing safety to the community and with other tasks ranging from patrol to investigations.”
The Austin PD told The Post it didn’t want to speculate on the number of officers who are about to retire.
At times, entire areas of the city are left unpatrolled while the few officers who are working respond to a large incident.
“A homicide comes out or a shooting comes out, that’s going to tie up every officer available,” Berry explained.
A recent night of chaos caused by street racers set an example of what residents can expect, according to Moon. The drivers shut down intersections, driving dangerously and even setting people on fire.
Vandals attacked a cop cruiser, breaking windows and injuring one officer. The first officer to respond waited over 22 minutes for backup to show up because no officers were available.
“We’ve pretty much conceded that we’re not going to show up anymore on certain calls,” Moody charged. “Eventually it’s going to get to the point where it’s so bad everyone’s going to realize that something has to be done.”