The city of Austin, Texas, plans to cut its police department budget by one-third, or $150 million, after the city council unanimously approved the proposal to reallocate the funding to, among other priorities, abortion access programs, according to the Texas Tribune.
The Austin Police Department’s $434 million budget will be cut by a third, with $21.5 million of that cut going immediately to fund abortion access, violence prevention, and food access programs.
Over the course of the next year, $80 million more will be redistributed to fund forensics and victims’ services in other city departments. And $50 million will be reallocated to the “Reimagine Safety Fund” to pay for “alternative forms of public safety and community support.”
One suggested reimagining of public safety is the use of unarmed civilians for traffic enforcement functions.
Austin’s police defunding movement comes partially from the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis that sparked nationwide riots, but also from the officer-involved shooting in April of Mike Ramos, a black and hispanic man, in Austin.
Someone called 911 on Ramos, claiming he and a woman were doing drugs in a car in an apartment parking lot, and saying he had a gun that he was holding up and pointing at the woman. Police arrived on the scene and confronted him. He got out of the car, lifted up his shirt and his hands, and said he was unarmed.
While Ramos was standing outside the car with his hands up, an officer fired a less-lethal round at Ramos, who then gets back in the car after the shot. He tried to drive off, and Officer Christopher Taylor shot three times at the car, killing Ramos. No gun was found on Ramos or in the car.
Attorneys for the officers have said police felt Ramos might have intended to use the car as a weapon against them.
Critical Incident Briefing – April 24, 2020
Other major cities, such as Seattle and Minneapolis, are pushing for heavy cuts to police budgets. Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best retired from her position after 28 years with the department after her city council voted to cut spending so severely that as many as 100 officers could be cut from the force.
“This is not about money,” Best said, according to KING-TV. “And it certainly isn’t about demonstrators. Believe me, I have a lot thicker skin than that. It really is about the overarching lack of respect for the officers.”