Austin’s Interim Chief of Police Robin Henderson has served the Austin Police Department for 26 years. Henderson has served in various assignments, including Executive Lieutenant, Patrol Lieutenant, Cadet Training, Field Training, Internal Affairs, Person and Property Investigations, Street Response, and Patrol.
While she’s currently serving in the role of Chief of Police on an interim basis, her two most recent predecessors also had that title before being permanently appointed.
Since being sworn in, Henderson says it’s been a tremendous honor and privilege. “The department is facing challenges, but I’m doing everything in my power to make a positive change in the department and community,” Henderson stated.
I’m doing everything in my power to make a positive change in the department and community
Chief Henderson didn’t always plan on being a police officer. “I was going to school to be a dentist, studying biology. Then I got pregnant in the second semester. I was going to Charleston State University at the time and moved back to El Paso to attend the University of Texas at El Paso.” One day, she went to the wrong class on the wrong day and was told, “You’re not supposed to be here.” She agreed and decided to take a semester off because she didn’t know if she could finish the required education as a single mom.
Henderson’s father was working for the Texas Workforce Commission, transitioning people from military to government jobs. He suggested that she apply for the Austin Police Department and the Austin Fire Department, and she was accepted into the Austin Police Academy. “I moved to Austin knowing no one, and 26 years later, here I am!” said Henderson. Chief Henderson also stated that she was going to be a federal marshal but fell in love with Austin.
Since being appointed, Henderson has had several officers let her know they’re very happy that she’s the interim Chief of Police. She has a great connection with several officers from her time at the training facility, helping train from the 110th class to the 133rd.
As far as her goals as interim (and hopefully permanently appointed) Chief of Police, Henderson has both short- and long-term goals. She mentioned, “We need to focus on rebuilding public trust through community engagement, judicial changes, and through policing processes.” She stated that the department has to make sure that its processes are evaluated and that they have alternative outcomes when addressing public safety. “That’s not a needle that moves quickly. We need feedback and insight from the community to help move the organization forward,” said Henderson.
The emergency communication staff and dispatch center are now fully staffed, and by January, emergency staffing will be 100%. As for the police department, Henderson emphasized, “We’re in a staffing crisis, so short-staffed that our officers are going from call to call. The violent crime rate is up, and we need officers to help with that. I don’t think the public is aware of the true scarcity. It takes a long time for officers to become solo.”
We’re going to be intentional about building community trust and making sure we’re policing as the community expects us to
The attrition rate is the highest since post-COVID/the George Floyd protests. Attrition was in the 140’s and is now in the 150’s. She said that this is very concerning, and the public needs to be aware. Detectives are working on backfill as patrol officers. Because of this, they can’t fully work on their assigned cases. “We’re at a stage where we have to come up with new strategies to address it.” Currently, APD is approximately 500 officers short, with a headcount of 1,483.
“We’re going to be intentional about building community trust and making sure we’re policing as the community expects us to. I will also be availing myself to the community,” said Henderson. She implores the community to please reach out to her if there’s anything you want to discuss. She is ready to work hard and be available for the community.
“I’m very proud of the department and organization, as well as our robust wellness division and the changes to our training academy as suggested by recent polls. I want to make sure the community knows that we’re listening and doing what we can to make the necessary changes and adjustments.”