Austin, TX

Wide-Ranging Plans to Restructure the Police in Austin, Texas Raise Concerns that Certain Types of Crime Will Rise

Carol Lennox

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Protesters holding Defund the Police sign.Photo by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash

Full disclosure. I've worked in the past as a counselor for gang members newly released from Texas Youth Commission, and therefore have some insight into police gang units. My foster son was murdered in November 2019, most likely by drug dealers, and his murderers have not been found. Both of these experiences were in a different city in Texas. However, I know what can happen when Gang Units are disbanded, and when there aren't enough resources for the police to solve major crime.

Austin, Texas formed a task force, Reimagining Public Safety, eight months ago to plan ways to use the money defunded from the Austin Police Department. They presented their ideas and recommendations to the Austin City Council April 20, 2021.

According to David Johnson, head of the committee on Police Staffing: Patrol and Criminal Investigations, the primary goal of the task force is that, "We want everything that can be done outside of the police to be done outside of the police." Toward this goal, the task force recommends additional cuts of $77 million to the Austin Police Department budget through decoupling or ending several programs.

One of the departments they want to end is the Gang Suppression Unit. According to the recent Department of Public Safety of Texas, there are as many as 100,000 gang members throughout Texas. DPS Director, Steven McCraw states, "Gangs and their associates remain a significant threat to public safety, not only because of their penchant for violence and criminal activity, but also their relationships with other criminal organizations, such as Mexican cartels."

Currently, the State of Texas funds Anti-Gang Centers through grants from the Criminal Justice Division of the governor's office. The grants include partnerships between state, local and federal law enforcement agencies. It's unclear if an agency to address gang activity in Austin, TX would be formed outside of the Austin Police Department, and if so whether the state grants could even be used by a civilian group.

In Fort Worth where I worked with gang members, a combination of counseling, outreach, and an active police department Gang Unit all but eradicated gangs in the early 2000s. The gang unit was disbanded. Shortly after, gangs flourished again, undeterred.

Task force members also want to shut down narcotics interdiction, and the Austin Regional Intelligence Center and Real Time Crime Center, two intelligence gathering departments. There is no recommendation for replacing these operations.

Those last three concern me the most personally. If the police in Austin, TX or any other city are deprived of intelligence gathering and narcotic interdiction, then murders like that of my foster son will be even harder to solve. He as killed by drug dealers in an apartment complex. Even with informants information and physical evidence, the murderers haven't been arrested. In the investigation of murders, which must be handled by police, the police need all the help they can get. Perhaps the Austin City Council will choose to adjust the recommendations to do what keeps people safe, limits some police activity that has led to over policing in the past, and still provide what the Austin Police Department needs to do it's job of investigating crime and arresting people actively engaged in criminal activity.

Follow me below for my series on the rest of the recommendations for defunding and restructuring the police in Austin, Texas.

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My purpose is to inspire and inform. You can read more by me on Medium.com/@carollennox, and on the Good Men Project. I've had a lifetime of valuable experiences, and I want to share the lessons I've learned readily, or been forced to learn. I'm a psychotherapist, a hypnotherapist, a mother to my amazing son, Blake Scott, whom I write about often. I also write about race, equality, social justice, sex, government, and Mindfulness, not in that order.

Austin, TX
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