The feud between Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Austin City Council seems to be heating up. After the city’s councilmembers voted to defund the Austin Police Department (APD) earlier this year, the governor has been looking into measures to implement against other Texas cities that take similar action.
It appears that this particular drama is going to reach its climax in 2021.
Gov. Abbott previously threatened to take over Austin’s law enforcement agency in order to maintain the safety of its residents. It appears that he might be following through on his threat.
On Monday, the governor posted a tweet announcing that a proposal has been drafted that would allow the state to take over Austin’s police department. “Just in time for Christmas: The Legislative Council has sent draft language for a proposed law that would transfer control of the Austin Police Department to the Texas Department of Public Safety,” Abbott tweeted. “One way or another we will pass a law to keep Austin safe.”
Just in time for Christmas:
The Legislative Council has sent draft language for a proposed law that would transfer control of the Austin Police Department to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
One way or another we will pass a law to keep Austin safe.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) December 21, 2020
Earlier this year, Austin’s city council voted unanimously to slash the APD’s budget by $150 million. The decision came amid widespread outrage and unrest over the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer.
As I wrote previously, “The new measure will slash one third of the APD’s entire budget, it also calls for an immediate cut of $21.5 million from the agency to be reallocated to provide funding for abortion access programs, food access, and violence prevention.”
Crime has been on the rise in the city even before the city council’s vote. According to the Wall Street Journal, Austin is leading the nation when it comes to the percent increase of homicides in 2020. APD Chief Brian Manley released a report showing that the city saw a 64.29% increase in homicides compared to last year.
Lt. Jeff Greenwalt with APD’s Homicide and Aggravated Assault units told reporters at a press conference earlier this year that the nature of the homicides are the same as those committed in previous years, but that the city is seeing more of them in 2020.
“We are looking at a significant increase this year for some reason. We see all the same types of murders that we’ve seen in years past. We have a lot of robberies that end up with someone dying, which makes it a capital murder, and we have a fair amount of domestic violence that occur as well. But what we’re not seeing is any new type of crime that is leading to homicides in 2020. We’re just seeing more of all the same reasons [as] before,” Greenwalt said.
Last month, Gov. Abbott noted the increased crime rate in Austin. “Austin experiences highest number of homicides in 20 years. This is why it is absurd that Austin is defunding police. It is also why Texas will act to roll back that defunding and consider taking over policing in some areas of Austin,” he tweeted.
Austin experiences highest number of homicides in 20 years.
This is why it is absurd that Austin is defunding police.
It is also why Texas will act to roll back that defunding and consider taking over policing some areas of Austin.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) November 9, 2020
In August, Abbott announced a proposal to prevent Texas cities that defunded their police department from increasing property taxes. He is also considering other actions to target those who slash their police departments’ budgets.
One doesn’t need to be a prophet to see that Abbott’s proposal will cause quite a ruckus in the state’s government next year. The battle over the measure with likely be mythical, with progressives pushing back against the governor’s attempts to mitigate the damage that will undoubtedly be inflicted by the city council’s decision.
Abbott’s push for this particular proposal is definitely a compelling idea. After all, if the crime rate is already rising in Austin, hampering law enforcement’s ability to do its job will only place Austinites in more danger.
However, some are still pushing back on the governor’s decision, arguing that the state should not interfere in matters that should be addressed by the local government. Others have pointed out that the state would be using taxpayer funds from Texans all across the state to pay for its takeover of Austin’s police department.
Either way it goes, it is obvious to conservatives that the best way to solve this problem is to reverse the decision made by the city council. But this is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Austin voters did finally elect one conservative voice to the city council, but it will take more of a backlash from the city’s residents to push the legislators to do a 180 on their previous vote.
Texas’ legislative session will continue in January. The proposal will likely be filed as a bill during this session, so the fight over Austin’s police department will kick off early in the new year.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!