Remove Austin city council authority over APD

Remove Austin city council authority over APD

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Ben Thomas started this petition to Texas Legislate and

Former Sheriff Keel: Remove Austin City Council authority over APD

Former Travis County Sheriff Terry Keel says to the Governor, lawmakers, and the people of the State of Texas: “Rescue Austin and APD from the Austin City Council before it is too late”

The Texas Legislature should enact legislation removing Austin’s city council entirely from governance of the Austin Police Department and instead reassign APD – intact – as a stand-alone division within the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The terms of the Texas Constitution would allow for this as a simple legislative act. The Legislature should concurrently remove from the city a commensurate fraction of the city’s sales tax revenue as the funding mechanism for this new division of DPS.

In the past couple of years, Austin has devolved at an alarming rate into a haven for homelessness and petty crime. It has not been by chance, but instead by misguided policies of Austin’s mayor and city council intentionally imposed to the detriment of the public’s health and safety.

As the capital city of Texas, Austin has a statewide constituency: scores of visitors including most of the citizens of the entire state, the state’s largest seasonal college population, and part-time legislative and state government residents, just to name a few. In a unique sense, it belongs to all Texans, not just those of us who reside here full time.

The primary purpose of any level of government is to provide for the public safety.

The Austin City Council has actually acted to the detriment of public safety by enacting foolish policies that have ballooned the city’s homeless population over the course of one year by nearly fifty percent and commensurately compromising citizens’ safety with an alarming and visible increase in quality-of-life crimes such as littering, graffiti, public urination, damage to property and trespass.

Most recently, in the political atmosphere of protests over the George Floyd homicide, members of the Austin City Council have moved towards micro-managing the police department - tying officers’ hands regarding the use of force, proposing drastic cuts to the department, canceling cadet classes and actually advocating for essentially defunding the department as we know it, to reallocate tax dollars to various social programs – the same type that have placed Austin in its current downward crime spiral.

Before it is too late, as the Austin City Council is now taking the next steps to eviscerate the Austin Police Department, the State of Texas should step in to rescue its citizens in the next legislative session by simple majority vote of the Texas Legislature.

There is precedent for this change in governance that currently exists in a key portion of Austin.

The Texas Department of Public Safety Capitol District has primary jurisdiction for an area exceeding fifty City of Austin square blocks surrounding the state capitol. The difference in safety due to that state-governed enclave is palpable compared to the streets immediately surrounding it.

The Austin Police Department isn’t perfect and has had its share of problems, though fewer than one would expect, given the inherent precarious nature of its mission that occurs in countless interactions every second of every day.

However, despite often dealing in recent years with a hostile and irrational mayor and city council, APD has persevered as one of the best, if not the best police departments of its size among the nation’s largest cities. The citizens of this city – and state – deserve to keep it from being destroyed. The Governor and Texas Legislature are the key to doing that.

Terry Keel is an attorney and the former sheriff in Travis County, a former member of the Texas House of Representatives, and also served as a House Parliamentarian.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 25,000!
At 25,000 signatures, this petition becomes one of the top signed on!