What happens when elected officials think no one’s watching?

Just a few weeks ago, when all eyes were on them, Austin City Council took the first steps toward investing in communities’ health and wellbeing instead of policing. However, when they thought no one was watching, they handed the Austin Police Department more than $1.7 million in state grants last Thursday—and they plan on giving APD more money.

This is why we must actively demand better from our elected officials. 

Tomorrow, Austin City Council will be voting on a total of more than $467,000 grant funding for APD for aerial surveillance and body armor. These grants are further expressions of APD’s warrior mentality and will lead to increased criminalization and escalation against Austin residents. There was also an attempt to further fund the most policed streets in our community, but fortunately, the proposal was dropped due to lack of federal funding. 

Also happening this Thursday and Friday, Travis County will be listening to public commentary over the FY21 budget (to be voted on September 29th). Travis County also shares an extremely significant role with APD when it comes to policing and incarceration, and the county and city rely on one another for its survival. If the city has reckoned with the national call to defund policing, so should the county.

Policing goes beyond the police department and officers in uniforms. It extends to other systems on which policing depends such as the jails, the courts, constant surveillance, weaponizing social service actors as extensions of enforcement, and more to continue justifying its existence.

Here’s what you can do this week to ensure your voice is heard on the city and county level:

CITY: Call and email your council members and demand they stop actively routing money to APD through outside contracts and to reject the aerial surveillance and body armor grant. Find out who your city council member is here.

Call script: "Hi, my name is [NAME], I’m a resident of District [X] and I am urging that you stop actively routing money to APD through outside contracts and reject the aerial surveillance and body armor grant. Any increase to the police budget, regardless of the sources, is a betrayal to the demands from community members who are asking you to stop killing us through racist policing."​

COUNTY: Call and email your county commissioner and urge they reduce the County's sheriff, courts, and corrections budget for FY21 by 30% and to end the license plate reader contract and invest instead in our Public Defender’s Office, universal representation for migrants, and housing for people experiencing homelessness. Find who your county commissioner is here.

Call script: "Hi, I am contacting you to ask that you reduce the County's sheriff, courts, and corrections budget for FY21 by 30% and end the license plate reader contract. We don't need massive jails, surveillance, or courthouses. Money from this department should be reduced and invested in the Public Defender's Office, legal representation for immigrants, housing for those most vulnerable, and other initiatives that will center the health and well-being of community members. Justice planning should be led by the voices of those most directly impacted. We need care, not cages!"

Our communities need intentional care, not cages. Thousands of Black and Brown lives continue to be destroyed through jails every day in our very own county, but we can ensure our public funds no longer contribute to this violence.