Katko, McCaul, Pfluger, Roy, Williams Share Austin Police Roundtable Takeaways
AUSTIN, TX – Rep. John Katko (R-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Reps. August Pfluger (R-TX), Chip Roy (R-TX), and Roger Williams (R-TX) held a roundtable discussion with local law enforcement in Austin, TX. Since Austin cut its police budget by $150 million, the city has seen a 96% increase in homicides and a dramatic spike in officer attrition.
Just one year after defunding the police, Austin is now proposing a larger police budget. While the details of the budget proposal remain to be seen, the damage done to the city by defunding the police cannot be easily erased.
- While Austin is growing, its police department is shrinking. Currently, Austin has the same number of police officers as it did in 2008, when the city was less than half its current size. The city is down approximately 300 officers, with an additional 15 officers leaving the force every month. “We cannot make up what we lost in resignations and retirements,” said one participant. Because of budget cuts, the Austin Police Department (APD) was forced to cancel a cadet class, putting the pipeline of new officers way behind. As a result, several specialized units have been disbanded, and others don’t have enough personnel to be effective. State and local collaboration with federal task forces has been severely handicapped.
- Activist district attorneys (DAs) who fail to prosecute crimes are abdicating their responsibility as elected officials. When DAs stop prosecuting lower-level crimes, it leads to an environment of de-policing and has ripple effects across the community. One participant said, “These very people who swore to uphold the law are not.” Another said, “Activist DAs are aiding and abetting these criminals.”
- Anti-police sentiment has resulted in extremely low officer morale. One officer said he will never forget rioters chanting “quit your job” at him. Other frontline officers do not feel like they have a voice. One said, “The silent majority has been silent for far too long. This event today is giving us hope.”
- Proactive policing is non-existent because officers don’t want to be “the next person on the news.” They are afraid to do their jobs because of potential liability.
- The Biden Border Crisis combined with the defunding of local police is having a detrimental impact on law enforcement capabilities across the state. Because the Texas Department of Public Safety has had to shift so many resources to the border, fewer resources are available in other parts of the state to support underfunded local police like the APD. Budget cuts have made it difficult for APD to stop the trafficking of persons and drugs, like fentanyl, that come through the southwest border.
As head of the American Security Task Force, Katko has held police roundtables in New York City, Portland, and now Austin. A key mission of the task force is identifying challenges facing our nation’s law enforcement and working together to make communities safer.