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Austin City Council will consider cutting $100 million from police budget

File image of the downtown headquarters of the Austin Police Department. (CBS Austin)
File image of the downtown headquarters of the Austin Police Department. (CBS Austin)
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Calls to defund the Austin Police Department (APD) are getting support from some members of the Austin City Council. The Austin Justice Coalition wants $100 million of a $400 million budget cut this year. Some council members think they can make even bigger changes.

"Just having another patrol car driving up and down the street does not prevent the biggest chunk of violent crime in our city which happens in the home,” said Austin Council Member Greg Casar. "Moving dollars away from just hiring new patrol officers to things like giving people protection and shelter from family violence."

"I hope that we as a body come together in unanimous support in transforming what safety looks like in this city," said Casar.

For the Austin Justice Coalition that means getting a pledge from the city council to defund the police department. AJC wants the council to commit to cutting the police department's budget by 25-percent this year and significantly decreasing APD's budget in subsequent years with well-funded alternatives to policing.

“My instinct is that there is going to be more than $100 million of improvement that we’re going to be able to find,” said Council Member Jimmy Flannigan. “When I talk to my constituents about policing, they ask for more police to address their concerns because that is the only option they’ve ever been given to address their concerns. There are better options.”

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At a press conference on Monday, four members of the Austin City Council and Mayor Steve Adler also revealed the immediate steps they want to take to prevent the police brutality that happened at recent protests from happening again.

“No more chokeholds. No more shooting at people fleeing. No more using tear gas at First Amendment demonstrations. I would hope and expect that it should be policy today and that if we vote on it Thursday, that it should be practiced Thursday,” said Casar.

The package of reforms lays out goals for APD that attack systemic discrimination.

“Zero racial disparities in traffic stops. Zero racial disparities in arrests and tickets from traffic stops. Zero use of force incidents and zero officer involved deaths,” said Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza.

The latest report on traffic stops in Austin showed that Black and Hispanic drivers are more likely to be stopped, searched and arrested than Caucasian and Asian drivers. Caucasians make up 54-percent of Austin's 18 and over population but account for 47-percent of traffic stops.

African Americans make up 8-percent of the population but account for 15-percent of traffic stops.

“Austin is poised, I believe, in every way to do what it takes to root out institutional racism in all aspects of our lives,” said Mayor Steve Adler.

The Austin City Council will take up the first round of proposed changes on Thursday.

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