Texas Gov. Greg Abbott seems to have been taken in by Donald Trump’s penchant for authoritarian rule.
Abbott is considering whether to send in the Department of Public Safety to take over police duties from the Austin Police Department. What prompted this bit of heavy-handedness? The Austin City Council has voted to take a good bit of money away from Austin PD, which has enraged Abbott to the point of seeking permission to send in the state cops to do the city cops’ work.
This would be a serious overreach from the governor’s office into city hall’s purview.
Abbott, of course, cannot do this all by himself. He needs the Legislature to step in. How does he do that? Does he call a special legislative session, which would cost the state even more money it doesn’t have in the wake of the COVID crisis?
According to the Texas Tribune: “This proposal for the state to takeover the Austin Police Department is one strategy I’m looking at,” Abbott tweeted. “We can’t let Austin’s defunding & disrespect for law enforcement to endanger the public & invite chaos like in Portland and Seattle.”
I want to be clear on this point: I disagree with the city’s decision to defund its police department. I think police “reform” can occur without taking money away from departments such as the one in Austin. Thus, I am dismayed at the entire “defund the police” movement that has taken root in many communities across the nation.
I believe some police departments need a serious retooling of their procedures and policies. I mean, shooting someone in the back seven times while he is fleeing an officer suggests to me a serious breakdown in effective law enforcement. And don’t get me started on the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis.
I also disagree, though, with the governor’s reaction to what is a local funding decision. It might be that since the governor resides in Austin, given that it’s the state capital city, that he is taking the defunding issue personally. If that is the case, then he needs to get over himself.
The Texas Legislature and the governor need to allow Austin to wrestle through this issue. If the city council has made the wrong decision to defund the police department, Austin voters can take matters into their own hands.
I believe that’s what they mean when they refer to “local control.”