Austin mayor slammed by police advocates for falling asleep during fallen officer's funeral
'I want to express my deepest apologies to the family of Officer Martin,' Austin Mayor Steve Adler said
Law enforcement advocates are sounding off after Austin Mayor Steve Adler appeared to fall asleep during a funeral on Monday for fallen police officer Anthony "Tony" Martin, who died in a tragic car crash last month.
Justin Berry, a member of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and a senior officer at the Austin Police Department, said he thought that he saw Adler nodding off during the service, then received a photo of the mayor asleep afterwards.
"It's very disheartening to have the Mayor of the City of Austin – who was one of the ones that spearheaded all the defunding of Austin Police Department by a third of our budget, who voted to take away officers' pay stipends back in 2017, which had a huge financial impact on our families – to continue to go down a pathway that just shows nothing but the utmost disrespect and contempt," Berry told Fox News Digital.
Mayor Adler apologized after the funeral on Monday.
"I want to express my deepest apologies to the family of Officer Martin. Officer Martin died 10 days ago and will forever be honored as a hero. This moment should be about him and his family, including his two daughters whose words today pierced my heart as a father," Adler told Fox News Digital in a statement.
"I hold Officer Martin in the highest regard. May his memory be a blessing to his family, and to the city he served."
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Officer Martin joined the Austin Police Department in 2006 after two decades of service in the United States Air Force.
He died in a car crash on Sept. 23 while returning home after working his night shift, leaving behind his parents, wife, three children, and one granddaughter. That crash remains under investigation.
"I have endless memories that I hold in my heart, but sadly that’s all I have now," his daughter, Ashley, said at the funeral on Monday. "My dad was always my hero, my protector, and my inspiration. He was my fearless leader. No matter how scary the path was, I knew I could follow him."
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Adler has had a contentious relationship with the city's police force during his nearly eight years in office.
Austin slashed about a third of its police budget in August 2020 at the height of the movement to defund the police. One year later, the city council returned about $133 million to the police department’s budget in accordance with a law passed by the Texas legislature, bringing its total to a record high $442.8 million. Under Adler's watch, police academy classes have been canceled or delayed, while a record number of sworn officers have departed the force.
The temporary defunding has been blamed for widespread morale problems at the understaffed department though, which had roughly 250 vacancies at the end of September.
"It was really a one-two punch, with COVID hitting in March of 2020 and then the George Floyd incident happening in May," Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said at the Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 24. "Between those two, I saw a record number of people resigning and retiring."
Morale is also low at the department. A Listening to the Workforce Survey of city workers conducted last month found that only 20% of APD employees thought their department was well managed and only 11% agreed that "change is managed well" in the city.
"We just had a massive survey done that showed how highly displeased officers are towards the city… and then, less than a week later, he does this stuff," Berry, one of 19 officers who were indicted earlier this year for their role in breaking up a 2020 Black Lives Matter riot, said on Monday.
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Charley Wilkison, the executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, said the mayor's actions show "his contempt for officers working extra shifts, risking their lives to protect their community."