The Austin Police Department in Texas recently warned about staffing shortages that have caused “huge sections” of the city to go “unpoliced” following a contract dispute that pushed 40 officers to file for retirement in one week.
On Monday, Austin Retired Officers Association President Dennis Farris told Fox News Digital that the city’s police department is in “dire straits” and on the verge of a staffing collapse.
According to Farris, 150 Austin Police Department officers reached out to the association to file for retirement, six of whom are high-ranking officials. A total of 310 officers are currently eligible to retire.
“I fear we’re going to see a mass exodus of the senior people with longevity to where you’re going to have a department where maybe the average service time was in the high teens now, and I think it’s going to drop into the low teens,” Farris stated.
He noted that law enforcement officers are stepping away from their positions because they are unhappy with their salaries and a lack of respect from the city council.
“It’s not only about the money,” Farris explained. “It’s about the respect and the lack of respect they’re getting from this city council, less one council member.”
A few weeks ago, the city council voted to rescind a previously agreed upon four-year contract with the department. Instead, the council voted to replace it with a one-year contract that was subsequently rejected by the police union’s board.
An Austin Police Department officer told Fox News Digital that the radical activist movement to defund the police likely influenced the council’s change.
“It’s my opinion that the radicals and activists in the city have such a grip on our elected officials that, at some point in time over the last year or so, their plans changed,” the source stated. “They said, ‘O.K. now we’re going to get signatures for this ballot initiative in May and switch gears and put pressure on city leadership to move away from a four-year deal to a one-year deal because the four-year is detrimental to what we are trying to accomplish.'”
Farris sounded the alarm about the impact of the department’s staffing shortages.
“There are shifts that are going out every day understaffed, sometimes just one officer and a sergeant, and sometimes just the sergeant showing up. So there are huge sections of the city that are going unpoliced on a regular basis,” he stated.
Farris accused the council of “emboldening criminals” for giving in to calls to defund the police by refusing to support the department’s needs.
“When your political leaders in the city don’t support the police department, the criminals understand that. And they figure, well, if the city is not going to back them, we can do what we want,” Farris explained.
According to Farris, the recent and upcoming retirements could lead to as many as 100 vacancies in the department.
Last week, a “street takeover” in Austin caused responding officers to retreat from the scene when the crowd started throwing fireworks, rocks, and bottles. The department responded to four street takeovers that weekend. Austin Police Association blamed policymakers for the incidents.
“Austin policy makers are directly responsible for the overall safety of their citizens & visitors. Looks like they failed to make the right decisions & continue to defund, destroy, & demoralize public safety. Austin was one of the safest cities, NOT anymore,” the association posted on Twitter.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson (D) attempted to use the Austin PD exodus as an opportunity to persuade officers considering retirement to join the Dallas Police Department.
On Saturday, Johnson posted on Twitter, “If you work for Austin PD, are still interested in protecting and serving, and are considering retiring from the profession, don’t. Come work for the residents of @CityOfDallas by joining @DallasPD. We want and need you.”