Austin Police Department staffing issues remove officers from sex offe…
AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Austin grows, so does the city’s number of 911 calls. But police cadet classes aren’t growing at the same rate.
To keep up, the Austin Police Department said it has to reallocate officers from specialized units to patrol.
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“They all serve important roles,” said Chief Joseph Chacon, who has to spearhead the staffing triage. “I’ve just had to make decisions based on the criticality and the character of the work and taking 911 calls.”
He said the department has to be strategic.
“So we had to look at those kind of decisions versus some of our other specialized locaiongs like SWAT operations, because not every officer can do that, because it’s very specialized training,” he said.
After careful consideration, he said the department decided to move three officers from the Sex Offender Apprehension and Registry (SOAR) to patrol.
“We’re nevertheless registering all the people that need to be registered. We nevertheless have the capacity to update a registrant that moves,” he said. “What we have is a little bit of a reduced capacity on the active compliance checks to go out into the field and proactively check.”
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This dip in proactivity concerns survivors and freelance survivor consultant Allison Franklin.
“These checks are to really clarify those signs as a preventative method of re-offending,” she said. “And the more lax our measures are in place around that, the more easy to reach those places are to them.”
Elizabeth Donegan, former head of APD’s SOAR unit and current co-chair of the Austin-Travis County Sexual Assault Response and Resource Team, said while compliance checks are important, they don’t explain sex offenders’ locations around the clock.
“I think the public has this perception that because they’re on the sex offender registry website and know where they are and what their offense is that they have this feeling of safety and security,” she said. “But the reality is the great majority of rapists go undetected.”
According to data from the University of Texas, only about 9% of women in Texas report being sexually assaulted to law enforcement. Donegan said victims don’t report for a myriad of reasons, including fear of not being believed.
“So when we do have a sex offender who comes into the office and updating the registry or moved, we really only know what they’re doing when they’re sitting right in front of us,” she said.
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Chacon said the staff reallocation overall has helped with response times. Another measure the department took to help meet the 911 need was diverting non-emergency calls to 311.
“The bigger and longer term solution will be to have cadet and academy classes graduate more police officers,” he said.
APD’s next cadet class graduates next week.
Anyone interested in applying for the next police academy can visit the department’s website.
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