Gov. Abbott asks Texans to petition against "defunding" police departments

Governor Greg Abbott wants Texans and candidates running for office to sign a pledge that they back police and won't push to defund police departments.

The governor plans to sign it publicly, alongside other state leaders, Thursday afternoon during a news conference. He says anyone who agrees can sign as well by accessing the petition on the governor's website.

The governor has been hitting this issue hard in recent weeks and has threatened a state takeover of the Austin Police Department. Last month, Austin's City Council decreased the department's budget by about one-third.

In North Texas, Dallas City Council is looking to cut the overtime budget for the Dallas Police Department.

“This reckless action invites crime into our communities and it threatens the safety of all Texans, including our law enforcement officers and their families,” Abbott said. “That is why I am calling on every Texan and every candidate for public office, regardless of party affiliation, to join me in signing a pledge against defunding our police departments.”

The term “defunding police” is a muddy term. Most city leaders pushing to reform police aren’t proposing getting rid of departments or cutting their whole budget.

The Texas Democratic Party says that’s not what lawmakers are calling for and says voters are smarter than that.

“Safety is going to be a top issue and the real question is do you feel safer now than you do four years ago?” said Abhi Rahman with the Texas Democratic Party. “Do you feel safer under Donald Trump and Greg Abbott because this is all Donald Trump’s America. This is all Donald Trump’s Texas this is occurring under.”

But the governor’s focus on law and order could be key to drumming up the Republican base heading into November.

“That’s clearly where the energy is in the Republican Party,” said SMU Political Science Professor Matthew Wilson. “So within his own base, the overwhelming sentiment would be on a side that is sympathetic to law enforcement, opposed to defunding police, etc. And that’s a good strategy for motivating the base going in to a really important fall election where control of the state legislature is in play.”

A Dallas Morning News and UT Tyler poll released Sunday found 67% of Republicans strongly oppose “defunding the police” and 11% oppose.

Wilson says it makes sense Democrats are trying to highlight the difference between “defund the police” and reallocating money.

“That is a slogan that has been embedded in people’s minds,” Wilson said. “It’s not going to be helpful for Democrats to be associated with that. That’s why they are trying to put distance in between themselves and that.”

The governor is asking officials to sign the pledge and post it on social media by 2 p.m. Thursday.