AM Update 7/6/12
7:28 am
Fri July 6, 2012

AM Update: Study: APD Needs More Officers, Ft Hood Shooting Jury Questions, Texas Special Ed Numbers

Study Advises APD to Grow with City

A new study commissioned by the City of Austin recommends the Austin Police Department increase its staffing numbers by over 250 by 2017.

The study, released by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit organization which has studied police departments around the nation, suggested APD increase its officer-to-population ratio to 2.11 officers per one thousand residents. Right now, Austin has 2.08 officers per one thousand residents.

The department spends 57 percent of its time responding to calls, leaving little time “to engage the community, solve local crime and disorder problems, or patrol hot spots,” says the report. The study recommends aiming to drop the time spent responding to calls to 45 percent.

The study was accompanied by a survey of Austinites with questions about how safe they feel in the city and what they want from the department. Ninety-one point five percent of Austinites say they feel safe in their neighborhoods during the day, and 81 percent feel safe in their neighborhoods at night. However, 36.9 percent did not feel safe walking downtown at night.

The survey found most Austinites want APD to spend more time solving violent crimes and preventing street gangs.

Deputy City Manager Michael McDonald wrote in a memo to City Council that the information in the report “is useful in assembling a replicable methodology for determining appropriate police staffing.”

Fort Hood Shooting Jury Selection to Begin Soon

Attorneys for the Army psychiatrist accused of the Fort Hood shooting rampage will meet with Army prosecutors this morning to talk about jury selection in the case.

The attorneys will discuss what questions will be on the questionnaire sent to potential jurors.

The judge and other military authorities decided to choose potential jurors from several Army posts, including Fort Hood, after initially announcing the jury pool would come from Fort Still, Okla.

Major Nidal Hasan is facing 13 premeditated murder charges and 32 attempted premeditated murder charges for the 2009 shootings.

The trial is scheduled to begin August 20.

Experts Can’t Explain State’s Low Percentage of Special Education Students

Texas identified 8.8 percent of public school students as needing special education in 2011. In 2000, the state had 12 percent of its students in special education. Both figures fall below the national average of about 13 percent of students diagnosed as having special needs.

The Houston Chronicle reports some districts, like Houston or Dallas, report percentages below 8 percent.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute produced a study in 2011 citing Texas as an outlier in special education because it doesn’t classify dyslexic students as having special needs. It also said Texas did not identify certain “developmental delays” in students as requiring special education.

Gene Lenz, director of federal and state education policy for the Texas Education Agency told the Houston Chronicle the decline is a good thing.

"While we're proud of the work that's happened here, we're not naive," he says. "We're always worried about whether everyone has access to special education services that needs it. But nothing seems more inappropriate to me than to place a child into special education when they don't have a disability."

However, some special education advocates disagree and say the low percentage is not symbolic of what districts are doing- but rather what they aren’t.

“The school district is not giving them what they need,” says Barbara Knighton, founder of Parents Supporting Parents. “ They're just sitting there in class. They're bullied, they're ignored."