The City of Austin has delayed by about a month the start of the next training academy for incoming police until it can finish an audit of materials used to teach new officers.
“While this delay is not optimal given the number of officer vacancies, it is necessary,” City Manager Spencer Cronk wrote in a press release Monday. “I know our academy and community will be well served by taking the time to do the hard work called for in this audit."
Cronk said the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the audit and that the new training class, which was set to begin in June, will now start in mid-July.
According to the police union, the Austin Police Department has roughly 160 vacant spots for officers.
“At a time when we’re already operating short-staffed and manipulating peoples’ schedules to fit the department’s needs and the community’s needs to keep the community safe, it is a huge disappointment,” said Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday.
He said this move would also push back consecutive training academies, meaning the course that typically starts in September could be delayed. Cronk said in an emailed statement that "it is not yet clear" how this will affect the start time of the fall cadet class.
In December, council members voted unanimously for a department-wide investigation into bigotry, including a review of materials used in cadet training courses, following allegations that a former assistant police chief had used a racist term for black people while employed by the department.
The city resolution requires that the City Manager not only review materials, but make changes before a new training class can start. Originally, council members asked that this review and any changes be done by June.
The delay of the training class for police cadets comes a week after police reform activists called for the dismissal of Police Chief Brian Manley following an officer shooting that led to the death of a 42-year-old man in Southeast Austin and an outside investigation that, while it could not corroborate many of the specific allegations, confirmed concerns about racist and sexist behavior within the department.
Correction: The next cadet class after the one set to begin in June is in September. A previous version of this story said November.
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