Community Organizations are Invited to Host Community Conversations

Published 9 March 2022


Graphic showing people on a virtual video conference and states "Reimagining Public Safety Community Conversation."


Community organizations play a vital role in Austin, and the Reimagining Public Safety initiative wants to hear from you. To that end, community organizations are invited to host Reimagining Public Safety meetings for their members, from now through January 31, 2021.

Community conversations are virtual meetings at which attendees provide candid feedback on how policing should work in a number of real-life scenarios, ranging from a domestic disturbance to a mental health issue to police on the beat. The feedback will be aggregated and made part available to city leadership as part of their decision making process. In many cases members of the Austin Police Department will sit in on the meetings, to hear from the community firsthand. 

As of early December 2020 three organizations have held community conversations, and six more will be held throughout the month. Another 10 more are scheduled for January 2021. 

The United Way of Greater Austin was one of the first organizations to host a community conversation. Cathy McHorse of the United Way of Greater Austin summarized her organization’s meeting this way:  


“The Austin/Travis County Success By 6 and 2-Gen Coalitions recently hosted a Reimagining Public Safety Community Conversation using the City of Austin Toolkit. The organizations that participated work closely with families with low income who have young children  - and their voices are often missing from conversations about public safety.  The Community Conversation not only provided a means for staff at local organization to share ideas and feedback on the reimagining public safety process, but also amplified the voices of parents with lived experience to do the same.” 


If you’re wondering how your organization would host a meeting, here are the answers to a few key questions: 


What is my role, as a community organization, in this initiative?  

The Mayor and City Council are committed to listening to the community and taking its feedback into account as public safety is redefined and reformed. By facilitating a listening and engagement session, your organization can ensure that its and its members’ voices are heard in this important process. Your participation also helps us ensure that we incorporate broad-based feedback from across Austin. 


How do I conduct a community conversation? 

The Communications and Public Information Office’s RPS team has created a toolkit that will show you how to conduct a session. The toolkit includes a step-by-step agenda and script to conduct the meeting. 


Will the City help us put on a listening session? 

Yes! A member of the RPS team is available to walk you through the session toolkit and prepare you to host the meeting. This representative can answer any questions you may have. 


Are the meetings virtual? 

Yes. Given the current COVID19 situation, the meetings are facilitated via your organization’s Zoom account. 


Are multiple languages supported? 

Yes! We can provide meeting toolkits in the following languages: Spanish, Arabic, Burmese, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Hindi, Urdu, Korean, and Vietnamese.  


What will be done with the information? 

Your organization's feedback will be shared with City leaders who will use the information to drive meaningful police reform that meets the needs of all Austin residents.  


Will the meeting content be controversial or potentially uncomfortable for my members? 

The subject matter covers matters of safety, policing, and difficult situations that could be uncomfortable for some attendees. The meeting agenda will address the potential for triggering content, however, and attendees may opt out at that time if desired. 


How do we get started? 

Community Engagement Initial Results

Published 20 February 2022

The first phase of conversations on Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) between the community and City leaders concluded on January 31, 2021. These conversations were launched in September 2020 to help inform City leaders’ decisions on public safety reform. Community members were invited to submit their feedback through one of a variety of online and call-in input options, including:

  • RPS Listening Session for One
  • Austin 3-1-1 Reimagining Public Safety Feedback line
  • RPS discussion forum on SpeakUp Austin
  • RPS short survey on SpeakUp Austin

Additionally, community members and organizations were invited to host virtual, scenario-based community conversations with their members, neighbors, or friends or to participate in a session hosted by City leaders. During these sessions, participants discussed a series of example scenarios, such as people arguing in an upstairs apartment, and submitted their responses to questions on the kinds of public safety resources they would like to have in each type of situation.



Nearly 1,000 people participated in an RPS community conversation and/or submitted their feedback through one of the other input options. Participants in the overall process came from a range of districts and zip codes, and they represented a wide range of ages, genders, races, and ethnic groups.

Each of Austin’s ten Council Districts hosted a community conversation, plus there were three citywide sessions (including one fully in Spanish) and dozens of sessions hosted by a diverse range of community organizations and neighborhood associations across the city.

Some of the community partners that participated in these conversations included Austin Justice Coalition, Austin Voices, Caritas, Integral Care, Maternal Health Equity Collaborative, the South Asians’ International Volunteer Association, and YWCA Greater Austin. City communications staff helped facilitate many of these conversations and provided technical and other critical support to help make these sessions a success.


Participants gave a wide range of feedback on how they want public safety resources to show up in their community and how to make public safety work for Austin. This ranged from people who rely on law enforcement officers as the primary guardians of public safety to people who believe that police threaten the safety of individuals and communities across Austin.

For example, in the RPS short survey on SpeakUp Austin, just under half of respondents rated their overall public safety experience in Austin as “Excellent” or “Good,” while over 50% said their experience has been fair, poor, or a mixed experience.

Participants often described how their personal experiences with public safety resources like law enforcement or those of friends and family have shaped their views. Many people acknowledged that how safe people feel in certain situations or the perceived need for police involvement can vary greatly by race, gender, and other personal circumstances, such as identifying as transgender.

Some of the other key themes we heard included:

“One size fits all” approaches don’t work - Whether people want law enforcement involved depends on the context of a situation. Participants said they are more likely to want a police officer involved if the situation is violent. However, many people aren’t sure how to determine whether a situation is or will become violent. In general, the people who said they wouldn’t call the police said they are concerned that calling the police might escalate the situation or generally do more harm than good.

There is considerable lack of trust in many parts of the community – of police, of government, of neighbors, and of each other in general.

Lack of awareness about existing resources  - The City needs to do more to make the community aware of the public safety resources that are currently available.

People want a broader range of Public Safety Resources  - Many participants want additional resources to help deal with situations that impact public safety, including preventative programs, specialized responders, and policies. People also said there’s a need for resources to help all sides of an incident, including victims, perpetrators of crimes, bystanders, and police and other first responders. Some examples of public safety resources that participants would like to have included:

  • Increased mental health resources, including accessible and affordable counseling to prevent violent situations, as well as mental health specialists to respond to relevant situations on their own or accompany a police officer
  • Equip people to deal with issues on their own at the community level, such as through neighborhood watch groups and by providing resources to neighbors in need
  • Greater availability of victim services, such as funds for property crime victims to replace stolen items and temporary housing for people needing to flee violent situations, as well as giving those in domestic violence situations a voice in what they need
  • Complimentary roadside assistance throughout the city and in areas other than just highways
  • Change the insurance claims process, so people don’t have to call police to get an incident report for theft or car accidents to make an insurance claim
  • More youth services, such as affordable afterschool activities and childcare options
  • Substance abuse rehab resources since participants expressed that drugs are not a criminal justice problem alone
  • Greater support for 3-1-1 or another hotline, so they are better equipped to handle calls alongside 911 dispatchers who could triage calls and send out the most effective/relevant resources for a particular situation

A paradigm shift might be necessary. Some participants said we need major changes in City systems, values, and culture, but others said they think everything is fine as it is. Of participants that expressed a need for significant change, examples of the suggestions they said could help improve public safety included:

  • Taking a more proactive approach in order to prevent people from getting into trouble and to deal with issues before they rise to the level of needing police. Some of the underlying circumstances participants mentioned that they would like to see addressed as a way to reduce crime included many economic-related stressors, such as the lack of basic needs like stable housing, food security, reliable transportation, and employment.
  • Improving law enforcement training to include more education on de-escalation, implicit bias, and cultural sensitivity
  • Dividing police into divisions, where police would not be armed in most divisions, and giving officers specific training for certain kinds of situations, such as domestic violence, traffic stops, burglary, etc.
  • Requiring police to regularly undergo counseling to help prevent them from carrying the scars of traumas they experience on the job into their next interaction with community members or even in their own home and personal life


An in-depth "Listening Session" survey tool was at the core of the engagement process. The tool, developed by Innovation Officer Kerry O'Connor and Alba Sereno, the City's Chief Research & Strategic Initiatives Officer, was designed to promote thought and discussion around several scenarios which may involve a law enforcement response.

Each scenario asked several questions including: How would participants respond in a situation, do participants want police involved, what resources are needed to address the issue at the center of the scenario, and how participants might reimagine a response?

More than 30,000 pieces of data were collected from the listening session survey responses. The Innovation Office conducted an analysis of the data to identify key themes and patterns in the responses and developed an interactive RPS feedback dashboard. With this tool, you’ll be able to sift through summaries and analysis of participants’ feedback on each of the example scenarios.

Click Image to view the feedback dashboard.

RPS Community Conversation

Austin's Next Police Chief: Opportunities to Provide Feedback

Published 2 February 2022


Public input is critical to creating a public safety capability that works for everyone. The City and the RPS Team continue to provide residents and community leaders with a variety of ways to make their voices heard. The hiring of a new police chief to lead the Austin Police Department provides just such an opportunity for resident feedback.


On March 22, 2021 City Manager Spencer Cronk announced the City’s launch of the Chief of Police recruitment. To lead this recruitment process, City Manager Cronk has engaged Ralph Andersen & Associates, who has assisted 35 other cities in hiring their Police Chiefs across the country since 2016.

May Meetings

During the week of May 17th, a series of virtual community meetings will be held where you will be able to provide the Consultants from Ralph Andersen & Associates with your feedback as it relates to this incredibly important role.

Graphic listing the times and dates of upcoming feedback meetings.

Virtual meetings will take place via Zoom.

Click on the meeting date links below to join your preferred Zoom meeting:

Monday May 17, 2021                    12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Monday May 17, 2021                    6:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Thursday May 20, 2021                  9:00 am – 10:00 am

Friday May 21, 2021                        10:00 am – 11:00 am

Friday May 21, 2021                        2:00 pm – 3:00 pm


Other Ways to Provide Input

Those who cannot attend one of the meetings may still submit feedback via SpeakUp Austin: Your Next Chief of Police Recruitment Process or send an email to All submissions will be taken into consideration.

City Council Approves Pilot Cadet Class for a Reimagined APD Training Academy

Published 10 August 2021

The Austin City Council today approved moving forward with a reimagined Austin Police Department (APD) training academy in June. The 144th cadet class will be a pilot class, the first to complete training with the Academy’s new curriculum and expanded community engagement programming.

In March, the City Council approved the City Manager’s blueprint for the reimagined academy. The blueprint outlined a collaborative and iterative process of transforming the academy and creating a core focus on community input, emphasizing servant leadership, and curriculum and teaching methods that are infused with diversity, equity, and inclusion.

New academy curriculum will include:

  • 30 more hours of community engagement programming,
  • a two-week community immersion orientation program,
  • anti-racism training
  • a newly designed course on the history of police
  • regular physical fitness training
  • fewer week-long blocks of technical course content to allow for more effective implementation of adult learning strategies
  • a formal process of community and civilian input into training content to ensure that issues of racial equity and procedural justice are reflected in all aspects of cadet training

The 144th Academy will be 34 weeks long and is expected to begin on June 7, 2021. Kroll & Associates, an independent consultant will continue to evaluate APD’s readiness to launch and implementation of the pilot class.

The reimagined academy is an outcome of City Council Resolution 20191205-066 with a core focus on eliminating racial bias, bigotry, and discrimination in APD policies, practices and behaviors. The resolution directed City Manager Spencer Cronk to conduct an audit of recruitment and training policies, procedures, protocols and materials for cadets and officers, develop plan for continuing education for officers and management training for supervisors on eliminating racial bias, and to delay the start of a cadet class until this work was completed.

The resolution is part of the founding reforms under the Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) framework.  Details about this and other initiatives can be found on the RPS website in English and Spanish.

Reimagined APD Training Academy Kicks Off With Community Engagement

Published 1 July 2021


On a sunny afternoon, cadets who are hoping to become Austin’s newest police officers mowed grass, trimmed bushes, and pulled weeds at the Edgar Fincher III Program Garden. Their work helped prepare the garden for the next planting cycle and planted seeds to grow stronger community bonds. 

At the Austin Central Library, a panel discussion leads to two strangers, a community leader and a police cadet to connect over coffee and a conversation about culture and shared values. 

In a powerful and poignant meeting, cadets take their first steps toward learning how to serve survivors of abuse and domestic violence. 

A range of interactions and experiences—with one goal: fostering better relationships between Austin’s next class of Police Officers and the community members they will soon serve. 

The 144th cadet class of the Austin Police Department’s (APD) Police Training Academy began on June 7th, 2021. The 34-week session is a pilot class, the first to complete training using the Police Academy’s new curriculum and expanded community engagement programming as part of the City’s overall Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) initiative.

Community Connect 

The first two weeks of the academy centered around the new Community Connect program which focused on helping cadets get to know community leaders and other residents long before they put on a uniform.  

The range of opportunities included:

  • Community meetings: Members of various communities throughout Austin, with an emphasis on under-represented voices, were asked to meet with the cadets and provide their perspective on issues in their communities and what response they would like to see from APD. 

  • Meet and greet: On June 15th from 4:00-6:30pm APD hosted an informal meeting at Edward Rendon Park where anyone from the community could meet and get to know the new cadet class.  

  • Training with the SAFE Alliance (focused on serving survivors of child abuse, sexual abuse/exploitation, and domestic violence): On June 9th, members of SAFE’s leadership provided an overview of the organization’s efforts, and then its staff trained cadets on trauma-informed care, working with those in the disabled community, and victim services. 

  • Beautification and public space improvement in partnership with the Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC): Cadets worked on projects at seven locations across the City as a part of the community engagement phase of training. Collaborating on these community service projects builds on a longstanding partnership between APD and DACC, serving the community and providing compassionate services for individuals experiencing homelessness.

Projects took place across Austin: 
  • Landscaping at the Violet KeepSafe Facility which provides individuals experiencing homelessness a secure place to store their belongings.   

  • Twenty cadets completed graffiti abatement work on the pillars on 6th Street, 7th Street, and 8th Street under the Interstate-35 highway.   

  •  Another fifteen cadets assisted with yard clean up and recycling at the Fleet Services Emergency Vehicle Repair Facility on Hargrave Street. 

  • Twenty-five cadets used kayaks to patrol the banks of Lady Bird Lake to remove the trash and debris.  

  • Twenty cadets completed additional park beautification and graffiti abatement work at the Heath Eiland and Morgan Moss BMX Skate Park and the Shoal Creek Trail.   

  • Fifteen cadets worked in DACC’s Edgar Fincher III Program Garden to prepare it for the next planting season. All crops grown in the Garden are donated to local soup kitchens that provide meals for individuals experiencing homelessness. 
APD cadets meet and interact with the community at an event on June 15, 2021

APD cadets met and interacted with members of the community at the June 15th meet and greet.

APD cadets cleaning an I35 underpass

Cadets cleaned an I35 underpass in partnership with DACC.

APD cadets in kayaks remove trash and debris from Lady Bird Lake

Cadets took to kayaks to patrol and clean Lady Bird Lake.

Beyond the scheduled and planned community engagement events, the updated curriculum has already led to deeper connections between cadets and the residents they serve. In one case, a South Asian community leader who spoke to the cadet class extended an open invitation to drop by his home for a cup of coffee and a more intimate discussion about Indian culture. One cadet took him up on it and learned about one of Austin's ethnic communities, all while enjoying an Indian regional delicacy. 

“We want to teach them how to relate to people and how best to communicate and, in many cases, deescalate situations.” Interim Police Chief Chacon said. 

The  pilot class of the Reimagined Academy follows the City Manager’s blueprint which outlines a a collaborative and on-going process of transforming the academy and creating a core focus on community input, emphasizing servant leadership, and curriculum and teaching methods infused with diversity, equity and inclusion.

144th Reimagined APD Cadet Class Now Underway

Published 10 June 2021


One hundred recruits started their journey toward becoming police officers Monday as the Austin Police Department kicked off its 144th cadet class. The 34-week session will be a pilot class, the first to complete training using the Police Academy’s new curriculum and expanded community engagement programming. 

Last month, Austin City Council approved moving forward with resuming cadet classes after accepting City Manager Spencer Cronk’s blueprint for a reimagined academy. The blueprint outlined a collaborative and on-going process of transforming the academy and creating a core focus on community input, emphasizing servant leadership, and curriculum and teaching methods infused with diversity, equity and inclusion.

Earlier today, City Manager Cronk and Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon addressed the cadets as they began the two-week Community Connect phase of training.

“Welcome to the 144th Austin Police Academy Cadet Class," Cronk said. "I’m excited you're all here today. Many of you came to the police academy for different reasons. But after you go through this you will all be united in one common purpose, to serve our community with dignity, integrity, respect, compassion and professionalism."

The City Manager also thanked APD instructors and staff for all of their hard work developing the training and curriculum to make this reimagined cadet class a reality.  

Chief Chacon told the cadets that the training in the months ahead would be tough, but he is confident everyone has the ability to succeed.

“We are transitioning from the military styled academy into one that is based on adult learning concepts and active learning,” Chacon said. “Our experience and academic research indicate it leads to a better experience for the cadets, and they’re going to take that knowledge and apply it in the field in a positive way.”

Video of City and APD leadership welcoming the cadet class is available to download here.

Key dates for the new Academy class include:
•    June 7, 2021 - 144th Academy Community Connect program begins
•    June 21, 2021 - 144th Academy Training begins
•    January 25, 2022 - Chief’s Run 
•    January 28, 2022 - 144th Academy Graduation

Forging deeper, more meaningful relationships with the Austin residents, is one of the key priorities for APD and the reimagined Academy. Members of the community will be given a chance to interact with the incoming cadet class from 4 - 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15, at a community meet and greet at Edward Rendon Park, 2101 Jesse E. Segovia Street. 

Community representatives will also participate in an academy training video and curriculum review committees through the academy session.  An independent evaluator will be on-site for the first week of classes as part of APD’s commitment to continually evaluate and improve academy training.

Feedback Needed: City Budget

Published 21 May 2021

Learn More about the City of Austin Budget and take our survey!

Graphic requesting feedback on City of Austin budget.

It’s that time of year, and the City of Austin wants to encourage our residents to weigh-in as the City plans for its next Budget. It’s important that we hear from you and your families to help the City prioritize services that impact how you live, work, play, shop and more.

To learn more about the City of Austin Budget, view the full video by clicking on the links. While there take our short survey!

English video

Video de presupuesto en español

Office of Police Oversight Community Event, APD Use of Force

Published 11 May 2021


The Office of Police Oversight hosted a community event to review Austin Police Department use of force policies, collect input, and make new recommendations.

The virtual Zoom meeting was held on April 28, 2021 from 6 - 7:30 p.m. A recording of the meeting is available here.

Meeting Summary

The Office of Police Oversight and Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) employees facilitated a community event in order to present OPO preliminary findings and recommendations on 6 APD use of force policies.  

  • Restrict shooting at moving vehicles  

  • Exhausting all alternatives before shooting  

  • De-escalation 

  • Duty to intervene in cases of improper or excessive use of force  

  • Banning chokeholds and strangleholds  

  • Warning before shooting 

This community outreach effort is part of OPO’s responsibility to review and produce recommendations –grounded with community input—on the General Orders, APD’s policy manual. OPO is actively seeking the contribution and input from members of our diverse community. We are committed to elevating lived experiences with policing in Austin and other voices that have been overlooked for too long. You can read more about this project here.  

Community members were encouraged to express their thoughts, questions, or concerns through various means, including speaking aloud and commenting in the virtual chat. Live interpretation was available in American Sign Language and Spanish. Community members also participated in a survey on existing APD use of force policies and OPO’s new recommended changes. You can participate in the survey by May 31, 2021 here. OPO encourages you to share the survey widely with other local community members.  

All public feedback will be collected until May 31, at which point OPO will begin to analyze and integrate community input into the final policy recommendations. OPO hopes to send the final policy recommendations to City leadership and APD by August 2021. To register for the upcoming community events on this topic on May 12, May 19, and May 26, visit here.  

3 steps to get involved:  

City Council Approves Mid-Year Budget Amendments for Reimagining Public Safety Initiatives

Published 22 April 2021


The Austin City Council today approved a series of mid-year budget amendments related to Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) Initiatives. The changes, focused on realigning City services and resources to allow the Austin Police Department (APD) to focus on its core mission of law enforcement, includes the creation of a new Emergency Communications Department (ECD) to handle emergency calls.

“Today’s action allows us to take the another step in creating public safety systems which remove barriers to access for everyone in the community while providing fast, equitable and appropriate response and resources to those who call for help in their time of need,” said City Manager Spencer Cronk.   

The new ECD allows for increased independence and provides an opportunity to streamline and provide continuous improvement in emergency communications including expanded public health and mental health response initiatives.  

The accompanying budget amendment moves 222 full-time equivalent civilian (FTEs) positions out of APD as well as $16,085,640 out of the Decouple Fund into an annual budget for the ECD.  “My office and APD leadership are working together to develop a timeline for establishing this new department. Input from staff will be a key part of that process,” said Cronk. There will not be any immediate changes in day-to-day emergency communications operations. The transition to the ECD could take up to one year. The department will report to the Assistant City Manager for Public Safety.

The mid-year budget amendment also moves a number of administrative functions from APD to other city departments including:

  • Transfers the positions and funding for the APD Alarm Administration Unit to the Development Services Department.
  • Transfers APD Human Resources to the City’s general Human Resources Department.
  • Transfers the APD Public Information Office to the Communication and Public Information Office.
  • Transfers APD Facility Maintenance to the Building Services Department.
  • Transfers APD Finance to the Financial Services Department.

More information on reimagining initiatives is available on the RPS website in English and Spanish .


What Is Public Safety?

Published 24 March 2021


The idea of public safety underlies numerous public policy decisions and laws, as well as many of the choices that each of us make in our everyday lives. But, what is it? What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “public safety”?  

Legal scholars define public safety as “the protection of the general public,” and they reference groups like police officers and firefighters as Public Safety Officers. Many governments form their policies on this idea of protecting people’s physical welfare. They often focus on combating crime in an effort to help community members feel secure, and they hire for roles like law enforcement officers and medical emergency responders. 

On the other hand, the psychologist Abraham Maslow used a much broader definition of safety in his famous “Hierarchy of Human Needs” model. He said that one of the most fundamental needs that we have is safety. This includes not only physical safety but also security of our health, money, belongings, jobs, and families.  

It might be easier to define public safety based on what happens when it’s missing. Imagine what your day, life, workplace, or community might look like without public safety. For instance, a lack of public safety might mean that the highway overpass near your house isn’t stable enough to drive on, the local park is overrun with used needles and other toxic garbage, or the water coming out of the faucet isn’t clean enough to drink.  

Beyond your day-to-day well-being, also think about the emotional toll that you might experience if you are afraid that you will be harmed physically, are concerned your child could catch a disease at school, or don’t know whether you’ll still have a job next week. In addition to immediate impacts, studies suggest that a lack of public safety might also have lingering effects on individuals, their loved ones, and the broader community.  

For example, emerging research from the National Institutes of Health indicates that victims of crimes might continue to suffer from a traumatizing event many years after the crime occurs. This lingering trauma and stress might affect the survivor’s health, job performance, personal relationships, and many other vital parts of life.  

Needless to say, “public safety” is a complex topic – one that city and community leaders across Austin are striving to address with the Reimagining Public Safety initiative. Some of the ways the City has begun to tackle this complicated topic are by working to address some of the root issues that can disrupt public safety, as well as looking at issues that currently strain public safety resources but could possibly be addressed in other ways. 

For example, in February 2021, Austin added a “mental health” option to the 9-1-1 triage script. When you call 9-1-1 in Austin, dispatchers will now ask if need Police, Fire, EMS, or Mental Health services. Callers that choose Mental Health services are then routed to a trained mental health responder. The goal of this program is to get Austinites the services they truly need in the moment and reduce the time that police spend on calls that don’t involve an immediate risk to the public or to the caller’s safety. 

Another example is the City’s recent initiative aimed at addressing chronic homelessness by providing permanent supportive housing. The goal of this program is to get some of Austin’s most vulnerable people off the streets, and in turn, help ease the burden on public safety resources that have previously had to step in to fill the gap. 

Of course, this is just the beginning of Austin’s public safety journey. Our leaders know they have a responsibility to address public safety, but they also understand that any topic this important takes the input of the entire community to get it right. So, what do you think? What makes you feel safe at home, in your community, and at work? What resources might help prevent circumstances that make you feel unsafe or to deal with these situations when they do happen?  

We want to hear from you! Check out the Reimagining Public Safety site to tell us what public safety means to you, share your input on the resources you need for your community, and get the latest updates on how Austin’s elected and community leaders  are working to create a better future for all of us.