A new billboard campaign along I-35 outside of Austin, Texas has a new warning: “Austin Police Defunded, Enter At Your Own Risk!” The billboards are the product of the Texas Municipal Police Association. One is located on the west side of I-35, facing north, and one is located a mile south of FM 1325.
Another billboard is located on the west side of I-35, facing south, north of Burleson in Kyle before exit 248. According to Kevin Lawrence, Executive Director of TMPA, “The safety of Austin citizens and visitors has never been more at risk from dangerous policies propagated by their own locally elected officials. We applaud Governor Abbott’s consideration of a legislative proposal that would put the control of the Austin Police Department under state authority.”
The billboards in central Texas come after Gov. Greg Abbott stated last week that he would consider putting the Austin Police Department under control of the Texas Department of Public Safety. This after Austin City Council members voted to cut a whopping $20 million from the APD’s department’s budget immediately. Abbot also called upon Texans to pledge not to defund the police department. The pledge reads, “Defunding our police departments would invite crime into our communities and put people in danger. That is why I pledge to support any measure that discourages or stops efforts to defund police departments in Texas.”
Texas Municipal Police Association, the largest law enforcement association in Texas, stated it released the billboards, which also include the hashtag #BacktheBlue, to raise “public awareness that Austin is a defunded city.” Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick backed up the campaign, calling them “great new billboards” through social media.
Defunding the Police has been a focal point for several protesters around the nation after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Cities across the U.S. have acted on the calls, which come as part of a movement against police brutality and racial injustice. City Council members in Austin approved the $150 million cut in funding to the APD, with the majority of the money being redirected to other social services and departments.
Despite the warning, Austin Mayor Steve Adler called the defunding effort “reimagining public safety” saying that Austin continued to be the “the safest big city” in Texas. He stated, “I mean you could have a 50% increase in homicides in Austin and you still wouldn’t get up to where Fort Worth is, a smaller city than we are.”