Are 1,600 officers enough to keep 800,000 Austin citizens safe?
That's what the City Council is trying to find out by paying for an efficiency study on the Austin Police Department.
Police, Fire, and EMS, we count on these emergency crews when things go wrong. Police outnumber the other two agencies and make up most of the city's public safety budget.
Councilman, Bill Spelman, wants to see if APD can be run more efficiently.
"We may be trying to cut, we may be trying to add, or we may be just moving around," Spelman.
Spelman says that study will take a look at how many officers are needed for patrol, investigations, and support services.
"What do we need our people to do, that tells us how many people and what we need them to be doing and we haven't asked that question systematically in a long time," Spelman.
Spelman also takes issue with the city's goal ratio of two officers per 1,000 residents, which is the standard APD uses and has used since the 1990's.
"I'm questioning the two per 1,000 but I'm not just questioning it to ratchet downwards. I'm questioning it because I want it rationally related to what we really want police to be doing. What can we do about our crime problem? What can we do about our safety in our neighborhoods?" asked Spelman.
"The two per 1,000 argument may be worth having if we were ever at two per 1,000. We're not at two per 1,000. We hardly ever get two per 1000. Two per 1,000 is just a benchmark that City Council rightfully said we don't want to fall below. I think the two per 1,000 is a smoke screen for someone who wants to have less cops on the streets," said Sgt Wayne Vincent, President of the Austin Police Association.
Vincent says the department has been through an efficiency study before, which is why the cost of the study, $100,000, doesn't sit well with him.
"We get a little suspicious, the individual who wants that study, and we welcome the study, but the same individual says we can fight crime better with less police officers and more crime analysts. We as police practitioners don't believe that," said Vincent.
Vincent also says the issue he has with the study is not the study itself.
"They don't take the feedback of the actual police officer, who is out there taking calls," said Vincent. "You don't know what these police theorists, who don't live in Austin, are going to use as parameters."
The Police Union President predicts the study will make recommendations because it wants to be hired again for $100,000.
He says top brass is always looking for best practices across the country and Chief Art Acevedo has by all accounts made cuts to his own department.
So why is Spelman doing this study?
Many say he is anti-police.
Something he says he is not.
"I am absolutely not anti-police," said Spelman.
Spelman says he is just trying to balance our city's police needs and at the same time get the best bang for the city's buck. He says preliminary results from the study are expected in about three months.
The City Council approved a contract with the company, Police Executive Research Forum on March 8.