The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will soon be deploying troopers and special agents to assist with staffing issues faced by the Austin Police Department (APD).
Austin Mayor Kirk Watson announced this partnership during a news conference on March 27.
“This is support and supplement, not override, not overtake. It is a partnership,” Watson told reporters, per KXAN. “APD is primary, but there’s support and supplement coming from DPS so that we can meet some of the needs that the staffing levels have kept us from being able to meet the way we want.”
As The Dallas Express previously reported, APD has had longstanding difficulties with Austin City Council. Most recently this tension led to around 40 police officers resigning over contract disputes.
Yet this problem seems not to have been limited to Austin, where 12% of positions are unfilled across the City’s police, fire, and emergency medical services departments. DPS itself was down 550 troopers and unable to fill all its recruiting classes as of late February.
In Dallas, the police department faces a 19% vacancy rate with 856 openings, as The Dallas Express previously reported.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed off on this initiative to send DPS troopers and special agents to Austin.
“In Texas, public safety remains our top priority, and we will do whatever it takes to support the brave men and women in law enforcement who protect our communities,” Abbott claimed in his office’s press release voicing his support. “I welcome the opportunity to work with Mayor Watson and city officials to provide the personnel and resources needed to make Austin safer. Texas has always been — and always will be — a law and order state.”
It is unknown how many officers will be assigned to Austin or how the police department will deploy them. But APD Chief Joseph Chacon, speaking to reporters at the press conference, said that those details will be worked out, per KXAN.
Austin has seen a surge in crime that has overwhelmed available local authorities. Six homicides occurred between March 14 and March 23 alone, per KXAN.
Similarly, Dallas murders have increased by over 15% year-to-date, numbering 81 so far this year compared to 70 logged in 2022, according to data from the Dallas Police Department (DPD).
In February, takeover events in Austin resulted in delayed police response times. This brought the APD’s staffing issues into focus, with 63 unfilled positions for 911 call-takers and dispatchers being reported at the time.
APD’s emergency communications division logged an average response time of 11 minutes for its most urgent calls from January 15 to January 31, with the ideal being 6.5 minutes. For comparison, DPD’s most recent average response time was 9.8 minutes.
Chief Chacon expressed his gratitude to the state for help, citing DPS coming to the City’s aid just last month as part of the governor’s statewide street takeover task force.
“They have stepped in when crime is up and the local resources essentially are overwhelmed, and I’m extremely grateful for that,” said Chacon, per KXAN.