Republican lawmakers say Austin, Texas, is on a perilous path and needs to bolster its police force after street racers blocked a major intersection late Saturday to race and “drift” before throwing bottles and other objects at officers who intervened.
Viral videos showed throngs of people pushing back police who tried to reopen the intersection at South Lamar Boulevard and Barton Springs Road. One officer was injured.
Rep. Chip Roy, Texas Republican, said Austin is heading down a “dangerous road.”
“I apologize to the [Austin Police Department] officers who have to put up with this crap, only to have city leaders play games with your contract,” he tweeted.
The city council recently approved a one-year extension of the officers’ contracts, though the union is pushing for a four-year agreement.
Sore feelings over the episode come on top of attempts by the former mayor to cut funding for the police department.
The funding was restored to comport with state law, but many officers have left, leading to concerns about understaffing, according to Fox News.
“I’ve grown increasingly concerned about our police vacancies and staffing crisis. Imagine for a moment that the incidents last night happened with large-scale events going on,” council member Mackenzie Kelly said Sunday. “The possibility of a catastrophic cascading failure due to lack of support from our police department puts the city, its residents, and visitors at risk of danger.”
Some conservative commentators called on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, to step in and regain control of the state capital.
The police union, meanwhile, faulted city leaders.
“Austin policy makers are directly responsible for the overall safety of their citizens & visitors,” the Austin Police Association, a union for the police force, tweeted. “Looks like they failed to make the right decisions & continue to defund, destroy, & demoralize public safety. Austin was one of the safest cities, NOT anymore.”
Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, a Democrat, had not issued a statement or tweeted about the incident as of early Monday.