Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New Citation Option Report Released Today!

Millions Wasted Every Year as Public Safety is Compromised

Today at noon, we released a report that illustrates how at the apex of the budgeting cycle, and as police union officials negotiate for their labor contract with the City, we don't need more officers. By prioritizing how police respond to offenses, we can save money and improve public safety by keeping officers on the street to address Austin's most serious public safety needs.

Chief Acevedo should keep APD officers, who make about $90,000/yr. average before bonuses, busy solving our serious crime problems. It turns out that 37% of all Austin Police Department (APD) arrests qualify for the Citation Option! In the meantime, APD is only clearing 42% of the violent crimes in Austin, and 12% of our property crimes.

High arrest numbers allow APD to compete for money from the federal government and bargain for more money from Austin taxpayers in their labor contract.

Please send Chief Acevedo an email or call him and ask him to implement the Citation Option now! We will update you here as the situation develops.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

One City, One Chief, One Policy!

The police chief continues to claim he is not able to implement the citation option because small bits of Austin are in Hays and Williamson counties. He repeats, "we can't have three policies," but we don't NEED three policies. Austin police have jurisdiction in every part of the City and Austin just needs one clear policy. Hays County Sheriff deputies can follow whichever policy they choose, just like Travis County has.

In fact, the Travis County Sheriff is implementing the Citation Option, Chief, so it looks like, thanks to you, we currently have two policies in this city. An Austinite who is stopped by APD will be arrested and incarcerated but the same person stopped by the Travis County Sheriff Department will be cited and released.

When the Chief says "he can't" it means "he won't." This long-awaited meeting with our neighboring counties, that won't happen until September, is a delay tactic.

Please contact the Chief today and ask him to stop the unnecessary delays ...one city/one chief/one policy!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Chief Acevedo sets first meeting for after the new labor contract is signed!

Chief Acevedo said he wants to meet with Hays and Williamson County officials before he implements the Citation Option and after months of stalling he FINALLY set up the first meeting ... but it's in September!

The new state law allowing the Citation Option was finalized in June, 2007, and went into effect September 1, 2007. Chief Acevedo has set up his first meeting about it for September 4, 2008. Why the delay? Could it be because Austin Police Department is set to have its new labor contract signed with the city by then? Does APD want taxpayers to pay for all of their unnecessary arrests for the next few years?

Who will be at this meeting and what are they there to discuss? State law gives the Chief authority to implement the Citation Option with the stroke of a pen. Weeks ago APD said they plan to meet with Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley to ask for his permission. We hope not. The Williamson County District Attorney doesn't handle misdemeanors, only felonies, so he has no business at such a meeting. We will let you know if we find out the guest list or the agenda for the September meeting.

There is NO reason to wait to implement the Citation Option. Please help by letting the Chief know that we do not want meeting after meeting while thousands of Austinites continue to be arrested and jailed for no reason in the meantime. Ask Chief Acevedo to put the Citation Option in place now!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Please ask your organization to endorse the Citation Option!

Some great organizations have endorsed the Citation Option:
  • ACLU of Texas, Central Texas Chapter
  • Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition (a coalition of dozens of organizations)
  • City of Austin Human Rights Commission
  • Grits for Breakfast
  • LULAC, District 7
  • LULAC, District 12
  • Texas Civil Rights Project
  • Texas Jail Project

The City of Austin Commission on Immigrant Affairs will meet tomorrow night to vote on a similar resolution, and we've heard that several other organizations are meeting to consider an endorsement.

These groups agree that APD should have an official Citation Option policy in place. Some organizations are seeing APD’s failure to implement the Citation Option as directly related to the current meet and confer negotiations - the budget crunch should have us looking at where we can tighten our belts, not entertaining hiring more officers we don’t need because APD likes to increase their arrest numbers by arresting people unnecessarily. Neighborhood groups want the officers we do have patrolling, not down at the jail for hours doing paperwork on someone who’s license was expired or who was caught with a joint.

Take a look at the organizations that supported the Citation Option bill (HB2391) at the Texas Legislature last year:

  • Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT)
  • Travis County Commissioners Court
  • Travis County Sheriff's Office
  • Travis County Sheriff's Law Enforcement Association
  • Houston Police Officers Union
  • Texas State Lodge & Fraternal Order of Police
  • Texas Conference of Urban Counties
  • Texans for Public Safety Solutions
  • Texas Public Policy Foundation, Center for Effective Justice
  • Texas Criminal Justice Coalition
  • Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
  • Texas Fair Defense Project
  • American Civil Liberties Union of Texas

With this amazing group supporting the Citation Option at the state and local level … Will you ask your organization to endorse? Have we missed organizations that have already voted to endorse? Please let us know if we should add your org to the list or if you know of a group we should contact!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

What are they hiding?

The City of Austin's responses to our public information requests have trickled in, but we still lack an important piece: the cost to Austin taxpayers each time APD chooses to arrest, book and incarcerate a person whom they could have given a citation.

Not only did
we request this information, but so did the chair of the City's Public Safety Task Force (PSTF), Councilmember Mike Martinez, at the June 2nd meeting. APD was charged with bringing this info to the July 7 meeting, but lo and behold that meeting has been canceled so APD got a reprieve until the next PSTF meeting on August 4th. Meanwhile, the contract negotiations between the police union and the City are at their apex with the union continuing the long-held mantra "we need more staff!"

Why would APD hide these costs? Is it because they know that we might be able to make a VERY strong case that implementing the Citation Option would save taxpayers from having to foot a public safety bill we simply cannot afford? It's hard to believe that officers on the street would want to continue to arrest people when they could just give them a citation, freeing up their time to handle more serious issues. It's hard to believe that the City would want to negotiate to sacrifice important social services and infrastructure our city needs in favor of more police we don't need. This act would not only strain the budget, but increase liability by unnecessarily placing people in jail. Our new City Manager seems like a reasonable, fiscally conservative and non-politicized man. Hopefully, the outcome of the negotiations will reveal these observations to be true.

Meanwhile, who at the City is standing in the way of revealing the costs of APD's unnecessary arrests?

Feel free to make your own requests of this information to our City Manager, Mayor and Councilmembers. Unless they know that Austin
ites care about how their tax dollars are spent, they may not act in the public's best interest. They'll act in the interest of those closest to them ... with all of their political intentions.

Learn more here and send the Chief an email asking him to implement the Citation Option!