‘Enter at your own risk!’: Police group launches anti-defunding campaign in Austin, Texas

Nation & World News

Billboards on display rallying people against defunding police departments. (Photo courtesy of TMPA)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Municipal Police Association launched a billboard campaign on Wednesday in response to Austin City Council cuts to police funding.

Two billboards along I-35 read ‘Warning! Austin police defunding – Enter at your own risk!’ accompanied by the TMPA logo and the social media hashtag #BACKTHEBLUE.

“The safety of Austin citizens and visitors has never been more at risk from dangerous policies propagated by their own locally elected officials,” said Kevin Lawrence, executive director of TMPA. “We applaud Governor Abbott’s consideration of a legislative proposal that would put the control of the Austin Police Department under state authority.”

#BackTheBlue billboard set up by the Texas Municipal Police Association on I-35 in Austin. (KXAN photo/Richie Bowes)

Governor Greg Abbott said last week that he would consider legislation that would place the Austin Police Department under the control of the Texas Department of Public Safety if approved by the state legislature.

As KXAN reported in August, the newly approved budget will move around $150 million dollars from the Austin Police Department to other areas of public health and safety over the course of the next year. The new fiscal year starts on October 1, but the budget sets up a framework for rolling out changes to dramatically restructure policing in the city, which will continue incrementally long after that time. The budget will also halt APD cadet classes for the time being as an audit into training materials and efforts to revise curriculum continues.

The budget tasks city staff with moving a number of functions previously held under APD (totaling to around $80 million) such as Forensics Services and the 9-1-1 Call Center into other city departments over the next year. These programs would not be cut, just transitioned to other departments.

The budget also tasks city staff with diverting almost $50 million from the Austin Police Budget to a “Reimagine Safety Fund” over the course of the next year. That fund would then be used to support “alternative forms of public safety and community support.”

Earlier on Wednesday, a newly-formed political action committee, Fight for Austin, launched to support local candidates who prioritize public safety and an effort to reinstate the city’s public camping ban, while opposing those who do not. The Fight for Austin PAC has a goal of raising $300,000 for the November elections.

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