Austin police chief announces sudden retirement amid rising crime, fights with anti-cop politicians

 August 22, 2023

Joseph Chacon, the chief of police in Austin, Texas, abruptly announced his impending resignation from the force following more than two decades of service in the Democrat-run city, Fox News reported.

His sudden announcement comes amid rising crime and staffing shortages brought on, at least in part, by prior Democratic efforts to defund and micromanage the Austin Police Department, the lack of a labor contract between the city and the police union, and continued squabbling with the city council and mayor.

Police chief is out

In a statement posted Monday to X-Twitter, Chacon said, "This is one of the hardest messages that I’ve ever had to write. 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."

He described his service as leader of the department as "the privilege of my life," "the pinnacle of my career," and "an absolute honor" for which he was grateful, and encouraged others at the department to keep their "heads up" and "keep fighting the good fight" to protect and serve the citizens of Austin, which he described as "one of the safest big cities in the country."

"Chief of Staff Robin Henderson will be named Interim Chief of Police in the coming days, and will transition to the position in my place," Chacon added. "I will take on an advisory role for a short time to ensure a smooth transition, before finalizing my retirement and leaving the department."

In response to that announcement, Austin Mayor Kirk Watson expressed his appreciation and thanks for Chief Chacon's "integrity and deep commitment" to serving the city and said, "We wish him a well-deserved and fulfilling retirement, and we are immensely grateful for his years of service."

Austin enduring real problems

While those statements sounded pleasant enough, they masked substantial turmoil in the city of Austin that has developed over the past few years, according to Fox News, including especially a shortage of officers and staffers at the 911 call center that has led to longer-than-average hold times and delayed response times amid rising crime rates.

That is due, at least in part, to the slashing of the Austin PD's budget by $150 million in 2020 by the Democrat-run city council, frozen recruiting classes, and a progressive district attorney who sought to prosecute officers instead of rioters during the 2020 unrest. It is likely also due in part to the lack of a new labor contract, as negotiations have been on hold for years.

The president of the Austin Police Association, Thomas Villareal, told Fox News, "We just continue to have a city council that doesn’t show its police officers that [it] cares about them," and accused the local progressive prosecutor of going after officers who were merely "doing their jobs."

City Council and mayor called out as "police abolitionists"

Prior to Chief Chacon's announcement, in response to a local media report about the impending retirement, the public affairs director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas organization, Jennifer Hackney-Szimanski, wrote, "Enough is enough. Austin will never be able to retain an experienced, well-rounded Chief for any amount of time with a Council who refuses to ratify a contract and a DA who removes less lethal options and continues to harass LEOs."

Her remark was shared by Cleo Petrick, co-founder of the Save Austin Now political action committee, who called for the state of Texas to take over the Austin PD and added, "Our Council is ruled by police abolitionists. We will continue to see more resignations from every level and an inability to recruit due to the lack of a contract, as the council continues to extort officers. Additionally, whoever the Chief has been or will be, they WILL BE micromanaged by PRO-CRIME council members."

A more fulsome statement was posted by fellow Save Austin Now co-founder Matt Mackowiak, who thanked Chacon for his service and congratulated Henderson on the promotion, and wrote, "The city now embarks on a national search for a new police chief and residents cannot afford for this effort to fail."

"This search will occur at a low point for public safety in our city. Amid rising crime, inadequate 911 response times and the most profound police staffing crisis in our city’s history, we must select a new police chief that can dramatically improve recruiting and retention and secure a new labor contract with the city," he continued. "The current Mayor and city council tragically let a collectively bargained four-year labor contract die in February and now there is no pathway forward, with a modest pay increase and benefit protections set to expire in March."

"Austin has 400 fewer police officers today than we did three years ago and hardly a day goes by when there isn’t a critical incident in our city. City leaders say they are pro police, but their actions clearly deny that," Mackowiak added. "Until City Hall rejects the poison of police abolitionists and their allied activists and ensures we have a strong, adequately staffed police department, public safety will continue to deteriorate."

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