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City council in Austin, Texas votes to cut one-third of police budget

The city will reallocate the nearly $150 million to social services.

Austin, Texas police headquarters Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

On Thursday (Aug. 13), the city council in Austin, Texas voted unanimously to cut its police department’s budget by one-third, roughly $150 million.

The vote came as a response to the several weeks of protests that have erupted in the city following the police killing of an unarmed Black and Hispanic man, heavy police force against anti-police brutality demonstrators and the death of George Floyd on May 25. According to the Texas Tribune, the funds will be reallocated to social services and alternative safety programs.

Council member Greg Caesar proposed the three-tiered plan to reduce the police budget after hearing from protesters and community members.

“This moment has been born out of a lot of hurt in the community,” he said. “We know we have a long way to go.”

The council’s plan is to immediately cut around $20 million from the police budget, which will eliminate funding from three planned police cadet classes and instead support violence prevention services, food distribution plans and abortion access programs. However, the council said one or two cadet classes could begin next year, if the department revises its curriculum and implements a “more appropriate recruitment program.”

Another $80 million will then be cut from the department as part of a year-long plan, which will redistribute money from civilian functions to other services. Roughly $50 million will go toward a “Reimagine Safety Fund” that supports “alternative forms of public safety and community support through the yearlong reimagining process.” The plan also eliminates 150 vacant officer positions.

On Thursday (Aug. 13), Texas Gov. Greg Abbott condemned the budget cuts and said the Texas Department of Public Safety will “stand in the gap” until state legislature can discuss the plan next session.

“Austin’s decision puts the brave men and women of the Austin Police Department and their families at greater risk and paves the way for lawlessness,” he said in a statement. “Public safety is job one, and Austin has abandoned that duty.”

The Austin Police Association also opposed the plan on Twitter.

“The council’s budget proposals continue to become more ridiculous and unsafe for Austinites,” the group wrote. “They are going to ignore the majority who do not want the police defunded.”

Austin is now the first of Texas’ four major cities to defund their police and represents one of the largest police budget cuts in the country.

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