Texas Governor Greg Abbott vowed he would sign legislation that would make it harder for communities to defund the police after a shooting Saturday in Austin. The Republican governor retweeted the Austin Police Association president's information about how long it took officers to respond to the the shooting, adding: "This is what defunding the police looks like."
Austin Police Association President Kenneth Casaday tweeted that a call about the shooting came around 5:35 a.m. on Sunday morning. "No units available city wide for 12 minutes," he said. He said Austin police arrived on the scene 16 minutes after the call came out and one victim was critically injured after being shot in the head.
Police say there appeared to be a disturbance between two drivers, and that it is possible that a bystander was shot in the head, according to CBS Austin. No arrests have been made.
In his tweet, Abbott wrote: "Austin is incapable of timely responding to a victim shot in the head."
"Texas won't tolerate this. We're about to pass a law-that I will sign-that will prevent cities from defunding police. Sanity & safety will return," Abbott said.
The bill states a municipality must hold hold an election if it proposes a budget for a fiscal year that – compared with the previous year's budget — reduces funding, reallocates funds or reduces the number of police officers the department is allowed to employ. The bill passed in the state's Senate but was postponed by the House on Sunday.
While Austin "defunded" its police department last year, supporters have said "defunding" isn't about doing away with all funding for police departments. The practice is often a reallocation of some money from law enforcement to other services that could help the community.
Several other U.S. cities have also defunded their police, some allocating funds to mental health specialists who can help answer distress calls. More than 55 law enforcement agencies in Colorado now participate in co-responder programs, where law enforcement is paired with behavioral health specialists, according to CBS Denver.
A similar program is being tested in two New York City neighborhoods.
"Police officers are called things that most people would never believe," NYPD Lieutenant Edwin Raymond toldfor the documentary "What Does It Mean to Defund the Police?"
"Pretty much the day is usually emotionally disturbed persons, car accidents and medical emergencies," Raymond said. Many of those types of incidents, he believes, could be handled without law enforcement.
However, Abbott has been a staunch, a movement that gained traction in the wake of Georgia Floyd's death one year ago.
Last year, The Texas Municipal Police Association put up two billboards along Interstate 35 entering Austin after the city council voted to cut Austin police budget. One of them reads: "Warning! Austin defunded police. Enter at your own risk!"
The second says, "Limited support next 20 miles," according to the association.
Abbott tweeted about the billboards with the hashtag #TexasBacksTheBlue.
At the time, Abbott also called on every Texan and candidate for public office to sign a pledge against defunding the state's police departments and post it on social media to show support for law enforcement.
"Defunding our police departments would invite crime into our communities and put people in danger," reads the pledge. "That is why I pledge to support any measure that discourages or stops efforts to defund police departments in Texas."
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