The Austin, Texas, chief of police abruptly retired from his post on Monday in the wake of major staffing shortages, the absence of a police union contract and years of issues with the city council and mayors.
Austin Police Department Chief Joseph Chacon announced his retirement “with a heavy heart” on Monday in a post on X, formerly Twitter, saying he came to the decision after a lot of thought.
“This is one of the hardest messages that I’ve ever had to write,” he said. “A few months ago, I began seriously considering retirement and after long conversations with my wife and family, and thoughtful prayer, I have now made the decision that the moment is right to hang it up on a 25-year career with APD.”
Chacon added that he never thought it possible to become chief of police, though it has been the “pinnacle” of his career and an “absolute honor.”
He encouraged everyone to hold their heads up, continue the good fight and honor the profession by keeping the people of Austin safe, and thanked them for “making this one of the safest big cities in the country.”
In the coming days, Chief of Staff Robin Henderson will be named Interim Chief of Police, Chacon said. As Henderson transitions into the role, Chacon will move into an advisory role for a brief period to ensure a smooth transition, before finalizing retirement and leaving the department.
The announcement comes as residents continue to feel the aftermath of staffing shortages, which include longer-than-normal hold times for those who call 911, and crime that continues to spiral out of control.
In 2020, the Austin City Council slashed APD’s budget by about $150 million, or roughly a third of its budget at the time. A state law passed the following year forced the city to restore the lost funding to APD, but by then, officers were departing the force in large numbers. At the same time, the city paused police cadet classes, further squeezing the department’s staffing.
Thomas Villarreal, president of the Austin Police Association, spoke to “Fox & Friends” on Monday, blaming the Austin City Council for neglecting local law enforcement and alleging that the council’s missteps created a larger problem.
“We just continue to have a city council that doesn’t show its police officers that [it] cares about them,” Villarreal said.
He explained that in December 2017, the council voted down a police contract for the first time in the history of negotiating contracts. When the union tried to get the contract back in place the following year, city officials decided to “reimagine” police oversight, and a contract was in place again.
Read the full story here.
Scroll down to leave a comment and share your thoughts.