Police Funding Shortfall Causing 911 Delays in Austin, Loewy Tells NY Post

An Austin woman recently had to wait more than two hours for police to respond to a drunk-driving crash. Personal injury attorney Adam Loewy told the New York Post that the city’s anti-police policies are to blame.

“The reason the police did not show up for two and half hours is that when Austin defunded the police, there has been a huge drop in the number of police officers who are on the force,” Loewy told the Post on March 21. Loewy went on to explain that estimates show that there are between 300 and 400 fewer policers officers than there need to be in Austin.

Austin Police DepartmentThe incident Loewy referred to occurred over the weekend of March 18-19. The woman in question, Austin resident Lacey Purciful, posted a video to Twitter in which she stated she had been waiting more than two hours for police to arrive after an alleged drunk driver hit her. The video shows extensive damage to Purciful’s pickup truck and the driver’s car, though it is unclear if anyone sustained any injuries in the crash. Purciful said in the video that fire department personnel were checking her children for injuries.

In the video, Purciful says an ambulance and fire department personnel responded to the scene, but she was still waiting for the police to arrive.

“EMS, fire trucks, and the tow trucks, everybody’s been here now waiting,” Purciful said in the Twitter video, “but still we have no police department to come give this man a breathalyzer.” When the police showed up, the man who hit Purciful was already sober enough to avoid arrest by the police. 

Loewy told the Post that a sharp reduction in funding for the Austin Police Department has created a situation where there are not enough officers to respond when people need help.

“For the past three years and counting, this is a very normal story,” Loewy said. “I’ve had cases where people get into accidents and police don’t show up for hours. It’s not an attack on the men and women of the [police] department, because they all do the best they can — there’s just not enough of them.”

The Post reported that five officers were on patrol in the area where the crash occurred when the area should have had 25 officers, though it’s not clear where they got their information. Prior news reports show the Austin City Council reduced the police department’s budget by about $150 million, roughly one-third of the department’s overall funding, in 2020.

Loewy told the Post that those budget cuts, combined with a general sense of hostility toward the police from city officials and the public, have depleted the department’s ranks and left residents vulnerable.

“The City Council has been in a war with the police department really for five years, but it exploded in summer of 2020,” Loewy told the Post. “They’re so antagonistic to police here that over 100 police officers have retired in the past six months. They’re having trouble getting new officers to enter the academy. It’s 100 percent on [the] City Council.”

The summer of 2020 saw major protests in several U.S. cities over acts of police violence and misconduct, such as the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Witness accounts and video footage of the incident show a white police officer keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck for at least eight minutes, leaving him unable to breathe.

In the wake of Floyd’s death and similar incidents across the country, many protesters called on local and state governments to “defund the police.” While Austin reduced the police department’s budget in 2020, ABC News reports police funding has actually increased in many areas since the 2020 protests. Among 100 city and county governments that ABC News reporters looked at, 83 percent of them were spending at least 2 percent more on police funding in 2022 compared with 2019.

The City of Austin recently announced a new pay package for the police department that includes a 4 percent pay increase for all officers under the rank of assistant chief. The package also includes up to $15,000 in incentive pay for new cadets and retention incentives for existing officers nearing retirement.

Loewy told the Post these new budget measures are too little, too late to stop the damage from the previous cuts.

“The damage is already done,” he said. “This is what happens when you take on a police department and you don’t support them.”

Contact Loewy Law Firm today for more information.