After legalizing homeless camping on city land, Austin, TX officials seek to gag cops talking about problems

To the shock of nobody who lives in the real world, the decision of the Austin, TX City Council last June to legalize homeless encampments on city owned land, including parks and sidewalks (but not in front of City Hall, where the council meets), has led to lots of problems for the self-sufficient populace, and thus to calls to the Austin Police for help. What follows sounds like satire written by Iowahawk. The Austin Statesman reports:

 Late last month, intergovernmental relations officer Brie Franco pointed Austin Police Department Chief Brian Manley and others to a neighborhood post online about homelessness.

In the post, a resident said Austin police officers who answered his 911 call about a suspicious homeless man warned him that the city is in the beginning stages of a public crisis, similar that shown in the documentary “Seattle is Dying.” The resident, who is not identified but lives off South Congress Avenue, wrote that officers recommended he “write (Council Member Ann Kitchen) and continue to call 911.” The man also wrote that officers told him that under current city law, they are limited in what they can do.

In passing along the post, Franco noted: “It contains references to how some officers have responded to certain situations regarding the homeless, so I thought it was best to share with you.”

Why, you can’t allow police officers to speak to voters this way! How dare they predict that the problem, which is worsening, will get even worse! How dare they point to Seattle, where similar policies have allowed the homeless to take over entire neighborhoods! And how dare they tell voters to contact the elected officials who made the policy that has led to the problem!

Austin homeless encampment in a park (YouTube screen grab)

It was one of several examples in recent weeks that has city officials concerned about how police officers are talking about the city’s homeless policies in routine interactions with residents or while responding to calls, emails obtained by the American-Statesman indicate.

But don’t worry. The police bureaucrats are on the case:

Several police administrators subsequently sent messages to officers with guidance on what they should and shouldn’t say in their interactions with the public.

“Please, remind officers that it is unprofessional to tell concerned citizens to watch ‘Seattle is Dying’ and warn them that we are in the beginning stages,” Assistant Chief Todd Smith wrote Aug. 1. “Inferring we can’t do anything with dangerous people is misleading and causes unnecessary fear.”

We certainly wouldn’t want any “unnecessary fear.” But when drug-addled people unable to fend for themselves take up residence in front of your house and place of business, relieving themselves without benefit of plumbing, isn’t a certain degree of fear prudent?  

Apparently, the cops on the street think so, but the bureaucrats don’t:

According to the resident’s post flagged by Franco, officers who responded to his call also told him that the homeless man who prompted the 911 call “is very dangerous when he is high. He also said if he had been sleeping on the grass by the street, he would have been unable to do anything about it because of the new laws.”

Cops who have to deal with these problems talking frankly to citizens who have to deal with them is the real problem... if you are a bureaucrat or a politician. And what’s not the problem: following the same path that’s led California and Washington cities toward typhus, rats, excrement in the streets, and aggressive panhandling.

Hat tip: David Paulin