Austin’s #ReimagineATX Under Attack
I believe that #AustinIsSaferWhen…
- black lives matter
- behavioral health crisis is met with healthcare
- people are housed
- COVID testing, PPE and treatment is accessible
- police don’t brutalize protestors
- no person is illegal or disposable
- rape kits and other evidence is handled by scientists
- police don’t assist ICE and tear apart families
- 911 sends the appropriate service when you call
- substance use is treated rather than punished
- people returning home after incarceration can get housing and a job
- investigations of police officers are handled independently
- family violence shelters and prevention services are in place
- black and brown communities are supported, not surveilled
- families hurt by the pandemic receive assistance
- police don’t have military equipment
A majority of Black people in Austin say they do not feel safe around police, and every equity study shows that Austin’s police treat West Austin and East Austin differently. Immigrants are afraid to report crimes. Women who report sexual assault are ignored or even treated like suspects. These are the problems that #ReimagineATX is going to address, and I support that work.
I know that Austin is already one of the safest cities in America, but #AustinIsSaferWhen we respect all our communities and address each crisis with an appropriate solution. I know that, despite persistent misinformation, Austin didn’t cut $150 million from the budget or layoff officers. The Austin City Council launched a #ReimagineATX public safety process and took a good first step by moving $21 million from the police budget to fund alternative first responders and services for people in need. If city officials hold to their commitments, #ReimagineATX will make us even safer with each step forward.
I support this process and elected officials that continue to make Austin safer through the #ReimagineATX process.
By signing here I commit to:
- pushing back against efforts to undo these victories; and
- pushing forward to fund more effective emergency response and real solutions for families in crisis to reduce our reliance on policing and punishment.
Austin just moved $21 million from the police budget to alternative first responders and services for those most in need. We are moving functions like the investigation of misconduct out of the department. Now our progress towards reimagining public safety is under attack! Take action!
- Austin’s #ReimagineATX process is under attack. Every day there’s a new billboard or website or politician trying to mislead people and make them afraid of the first steps Austin has taken to fund alternative first responders and services for those in need. Community groups demanded much more.
- Austin took $21 million from a massive $440 million police budget, with no officer layoffs. That first $21 million helped the city add 3 new ambulances and 67 new EMS responders, including 14 more of our successful Community Health Paramedics. Police have been asked to handle all kinds of social problems that should not be met with punishment. #AustinIsSaferWhen we start funding the alternatives.
- Your show of support today helps keep our elected officials on this track, so that Austin continues to migrate functions that would be better conducted by others (the forensic lab, investigations of police) away from the police department and prioritize investments that build communities up.
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New public safety investments allow us to address substance use disorder with services, prevent overdose deaths and reduce incarceration and hospitalizations. In Austin, hundreds of people are hospitalized each year due to drug overdose. More people die by accidental overdose than by traffic fatality. Many of these overdose deaths are preventable.
Our punitive approach to drug use only increases the risk of overdose; the drug war doesn’t reduce substance use disorder, but rather causes further harm. The status quo results in thousands of small time drug arrests, which saddle users with a felony charge that only makes a path to recovery even more difficult.
Community Health Paramedics Prevent Drug Overdose
Instead, Austin will now be able to send a special team of Emergency Medical Technicians to meet with users in the field and introduce them to the tools they can use to save lives. This team, called Community Health Paramedics (CHPs), help resolve medical problems associated with drug use before they turn into emergencies requiring a hospital admission. And CHPs distribute and teach people how to use Narcan, a medicine that will prevent an opioid overdose if administered in a timely fashion. The new Austin budget added a total of 67 new EMS responders to the public safety system, 14 of them these CHPs who are able to begin the healing. The budget also funded an expanded overdose prevention center where the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance will provide harm reduction services, including a connection to treatment for those who are ready.