PUBLIC SAFETY

Public safety is created by all of us. It is built by bringing the right emergency response to a crisis: mental health care for a mental health crisis or narcan to an overdose. It is built from solid criminal investigations that take dangerous people off the streets, while understanding that poverty is not a crime and diversity is a strength. It emerges when we adequately staff and maintain our parks, community centers and youth programs. It is built when everyone has access to a good job, transportation to get to it, and a second chance as our nation untangles itself from its reliance on an unjust era of mass incarceration. 

I understand that public safety is every city’s greatest responsibility and greatest expense. How we spend those hundreds of millions in local public safety dollars is important, and solutions from the 1990s won’t fit the demands of today. I intend to improve our emergency response system by funding the right kinds of response to all our crisis needs, by increasing wages for 911 call takers, medics, and mental health workers and by continuing Austin’s tradition of paying our police high wages while also expecting the highest standards of conduct.

Improve Police Oversight, Transparency

  • We must have strong, independent police oversight to ensure confidence in our department and reduce harm to our communities. Police officers wield extraordinary power, and can cause extraordinary harm that costs the taxpayers millions in legal settlements and makes policing far more difficult. Police should not police themselves. Civilian oversight can ensure individual accountability while helping to make the training and rules of engagement safer for everyone in our community. I support strengthening the Office of Police Oversight, ensuring it has unfettered access to the information it needs and that it can investigate misconduct. I support making its recommendations public so that we can learn from the past, make better policies, and improve trust in our police force.
     

  • Austin’s police academy has been in need of  a major overhaul. Training needs to perpetuate a guardian mentality amongst officers, not a warrior one. The city has made headway in reforming the training academy but there is more to do, and I support continued transparency and community partnership as we improve police culture for the safety of all.
     

  • I support improving the rules that govern policing so that officers and citizens will clearly understand what should and should not happen in a police encounter, while granting that officers need discretion to address individual situations as they arise. In health care, there is a concept of the “never event” – harm that can be prevented with the right rules and procedures in place. I believe this concept can benefit all of our public safety actions, and hope to work with police, the oversight Director, and the community to prevent harms associated with policing.

Keep Our Community Safe From Gun Violence

  • We must strengthen the community violence intervention program in Austin through the Office of Violence Prevention with programs to end cycles of violence, poverty, and incarceration through consistent engagement with individuals and community services. For example, I would support a program to match individuals most at risk of committing or being victimized by violent crime with interagency service teams for immediate connection to services. My administration will support gun safety education and investments in local safe storage programs
     

  • I will support increases in park rangers, maintenance workers, lighting, seating, and youth programming.
     

  • Regarding youth programming:  Be a visible community partner and leader with our community-focused non profit organizations and activities to support their outreach.

Poverty Is Not a Crime and Municipal Court Should Not Be Revenue Driven 

  • Austinites should not face arrest simply because they are unable to pay a ticket. We must improve our municipal court system and provide more opportunities for alternatives like community service, allowing our system to focus more on public safety.
     

  • Video court and hybrid options have become utilized in order to respond to the pandemic. My administration will continue to support video court, hybrid options and other community-based options to make our justice system more accessible and less of a burden for working families.
     

  • Continue to focus on building housing and services for the unhoused. Jail is not the solution to homelessness

Invest in Emergency Response

The City of Austin needs and deserves world-class emergency response services designed to address crises quickly, effectively, and put people on a path to long-term real solutions.
 

  • We must increase pay and benefits for EMS paramedics and 911 call takers and dispatchers as we fight to retain and recruit quality staff who can deliver the services people need in a time of crisis.
     

  • Pay increases for City workers, including emergency responders, have been a positive. However, we need to index the increases to inflation in order to ensure that compensation for our emergency responders doesn’t fall behind other industries.
     

  • Wildfires will be an increasing concern as Austin gets hotter and dryer. Wildfires require a strong fire response system, but also must be addressed by mitigation strategies involving the electric utility and Austin Water. Climate change has made fire everyone’s business. Firefighters must be placed where they can respond quickly and must have the equipment they need. We also need other staff to create the fuel breaks, maintain vegetation and conduct controlled burns when safe.
     

  • Every sector of our economy is dealing with staffing challenges and APD is no different. When we lose senior officers we are also losing opportunities to mentor and train younger officers and keep our community safe. We must work to reduce the loss of senior officers, and simultaneously work to train newer officers so they are able to meet the highest standards of public trust.

Expand Mental Health Services and Crisis Intervention

Since the pandemic, our already strained social services and mental health care services are being stretched even further. The City of Austin must move with urgency to ensure that its residents receive quality care.

  • City and County coordination is needed and currently lacking. I will work closely with the County Judge and Commissioners to fund mental health facilities and services and to maximize federal reimbursement for care to those who cannot afford to pay.
     

  • I have long fought to expand Medicaid, and will continue that fight as Mayor because so many of our problems are rooted in the huge population who remains uninsured in this state.
     

  • Intermediate care facilities need to be built and staffed, with both County and City support, to ensure that people do not end up in jail.
    New non-forensic inpatient beds must be available in Travis County to serve Travis County.

     

  • We must improve communication and collaboration on mental health care regional services.
     

  • We must expand our investment in community health paramedics for high volume communities to alleviate demand for higher levels of emergency response and care.

Strengthen and Expand Support Services for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

  • My administration will increase resources for social workers and investigations of domestic violence, along with funding for investigators and social workers through our local sexual assault support organizations. Many women refuse to cooperate with police, but will provide information and leads to those who are helping them through their trauma. We must improve investigations using every tool at our disposal.
     

  • I also support the creation of a Trauma Recovery Center. I view this as a critical piece of mental health care and public safety improvement. We must have a smooth development and implementation of the center and ensure that it integrates with other services in real-time.
     

  • In the 87th legislative session, we mandated a multidisciplinary approach to all cases involving children. This approach transitions survivors almost immediately to a social worker who is better equipped to handle the interests and needs of constituents. In order to better support survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assualt, we need to expand this multidisciplinary approach to all cases involving sex crimes and domestic violence. Social workers can work hand-in-hand with law enforcement for better outcomes for survivors. 
     

Traffic Safety 

  • We lose far too many of our neighbors on our roads due to distracted or impaired driving, or speeding. We must implement preventative measures – from speed bumps to traffic circles and mobile radar speed signs – to improve driving conditions directly. The City must not allow a situation where staffing shortages compromise traffic prevention and safety patrols.  Traffic enforcement officers can help us  be accountable to one another on the roads—including pedestrians and cyclists and help us meet the goals of “vision zero.”