Monday, February 20, 2023

Statement from Mayor Kirk Watson Regarding Illegal Street Racing Incidents

“As the Austin Police Department has stated, the street takeovers over the weekend were illegal and outrageous; they will result in arrest. I’m relieved that the injured police officer is doing OK and the vehicle damage was limited.
“The dramatic videos have gone viral and made some folks Internet famous but, for me, the bigger issue is the significant wait times for 911 calls. Our 911 call center received four times the normal number of 911 calls during the incident on Saturday night and that led to unacceptably long waits. I’ve talked to Interim City Manager Jesús Garza and Chief Chacon about our options for dealing with our ongoing staffing challenges at 911 and hope to have at least a temporary solution soon.

“The Austin Police Association posted some false comments on Sunday that appeared to wrongly conflate this illegal incident with important community conversations about safety and oversight. Twitter is not an appropriate forum for contract negotiations, and no Austinite should ever accept the false choice between public safety and responsible policing — Austin can, and will, have both. If the Austin Police Association would like to talk about staffing and other issues, we welcome them back to the negotiating table to discuss a one-year contract.
“While we wait on the APA, the Austin City Council will take up an ordinance this week that will assure APD officers’ wages, benefits and payout of sick leave hours upon separation are continued as covered under the current contract, even if the City and the police union do not reach an agreement before the current contract expires on March 31. We want our police officers and their families to know that they are supported by this City.
“This ordinance will also establish the authority of the Office of the Police Oversight as an investigator as permitted by state law.  This option will allow for investigations of anonymous complaints by citizens and police officers.
“I believe this ordinance can accomplish our goals, protect and provide security for our police officers, and allow for a robust and effective civilian oversight.  But let me be clear – this is not a better outcome than a one-year agreement with the police association.  It would be better for everyone if they would return to the negotiating table now, but if they do not then we must pass this ordinance to maintain effective recruiting and retention of APD officers.”