It seems like there has been a protest in Austin almost every week since president trump was elected. In order for the Austin Police Department to cover all of those demonstrations, they have had to pay officers numerous overtime hours.
So, how much money has the department spent trying to manage protests so far?
APD doesn't break down their payroll by which event officers covered, but the numbers clearly show that overtime pay has spiked since the presidential election.
The Austin Police Department has been covering protests in downtown Austin at a higher rate than previous years.
“Since the election, the week immediately following the election, we did see a spike. It went down a couple of weeks after that and then the week of the inauguration again it spiked,” said Assistant Chief Frank Dixon with the Austin Police Department.
Keeping the peace at each demonstration usually falls on Austin Police Officers, and the department handles smaller pop-up protests by relocating officers from slower areas.
“Now if we have a protest that's going to be large in scope, we think the numbers are going to up in the tens of thousands like we've seen on at least three so far this year, then we'll use our special response team for those,” Dixon said.
Because of the number of protests this year, APD has been paying hundreds more for overtime hours to crowd control task force officers each week. The pay period that included the day President Donald Trump was inaugurated and the Women's March on Austin, APD spent almost $42,000 on crowd control overtime. If the cost of protests from November to February stays on track all year, it will cost the department almost $500,000.
“So if we get to a point where we have to, then yes, we will start looking at where we can cut funding in other areas of the department, move money around, but the unfortunate reality is there may be a point, where we actually get towards the end of the budget year, where we have to start looking at other ways to creatively work these protests with on duty resources,” said Dixon.
If that happens, officers who work in other areas, such as highway enforcement, may have to start covering protests to save costs. In order to keep the community safe, the last thing APD wants to do is move patrol officers and leave another area of the city short staffed.
“We don't want to negatively impact the service delivery for the citizens that may be calling 911 for an emergency up there,” Dixon said.
However, with the current political climate in Texas and nationally, Dixon doesn't expect demonstrations to stop anytime soon.
“We didn't see these numbers in the last [legislative] session two years ago, but we are seeing, right now, our nation as a whole, we're in unprecedented waters,” said Dixon.
APD said luckily Austin hasn't seen the kind of violent protests that other cities in the U.S. have had to deal with.