Despite a population increase in the Texas state capital over the previous two decades, the police department now employs fewer officers than a decade and a half ago.
Austin’s City Council voted to slash the police budget by over a third in August 2020 to “re-imagine” public safety, and the city has been struggling ever since to attract and retain qualified new officers.
A veteran police officer claims he continually phoned Austin police before anyone responded to his calls after discovering a woman’s body in her backyard two days after she died.
Retired Austin police officer Robert A. Gross said he called 911 “four or five times” on June 18 to report a death before sending his wife to the closest fire station to get assistance and notify APD.
Gross wrote a letter to Mayor Kirk Watson’s office detailing the disturbing circumstances, and fellow retiree Dennis Farris published the letter on Twitter.
According to Farris, Gross, who worked for the Austin Police Department (APD) from 1975 to 2002, periodically checked in on the elderly couple.
While Gross waited for 911 to answer, fire and EMS personnel arrived.
Gross wrote that it took 17 minutes and 22 seconds for him to receive a response, despite the presence of law enforcement.
When a death is reported, the police must arrive since it is the law in every state. Until authorities give the go-ahead for medical examiners to release the remains, everyone treats deaths, especially unintentional ones, as suspicious.
Gross had checked on the elderly couple and discovered the wife dead in the backyard and the husband sitting on a couch in the living room, “staring at a blank wall,” with no one to talk to or comfort him. The spouse had recently been hospitalized and undergone brain surgery and “could have been a second victim.”
911 call centers have seen the effects of staffing shortages. It was reported in April that sergeants were substituting in for civilians as 911 call takers to speed up response times.
This demonstrates that many individuals are unwilling to work for Austin in the grand scheme of things.
After the city’s regulations caused an uptick in violence in March, APD teamed up with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). The collaboration was put on hold in May, and only this past month, it was revived.