AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thursday, the Austin City Council approved changes to a 25-year-old city ordinance dealing with the way funeral processions happen. The recommendations come after the death of Austin Police Officer Amir Abdul-Khaliq, who was killed by another driver during a procession he was working while off-duty.
During the procession, Officer Abdul-Khaliq’s, 46, was using his personal motorcycle which had flashing lights on, but was not equipped with a siren, which was against city code at the time.
The ordinance changes include requiring officers who use their personal equipment for procession work to have a red, white or blue light on their motorcycle or vehicle and now they will be allowed to—and must—have a siren. Officers will also have to obey red lights at an intersection and they will no longer be able to guide procession traffic through the red light unless the light was green when they approached.
“Any tragedy like that forces us to really look at ourselves and make sure that we have everything in place to let our officers do their job, whether it’s an on-duty job or an off-duty extra employment job,” Assistant Austin Police Chief Chris McIlvain said.
People who are part of a funeral procession in Austin must now have their headlights and hazard lights on at all times, to maintain visibility with other drivers. It’s also a new requirement to go 10 miles under the speed limit, unless there’s a minimum posted speed limit on the road or highway.
“[Changes like] increasing visibility, both with the lights and the siren, slowing the procession down and not having officers go through intersections, [are changes] we hope that we can prevent another tragedy like that in the future,” McIlvain said.
Other changes also include the timing of when processions are allowed, blackout times are Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The goal is to avoid more congestion in Austin’s already problematic traffic.
“We took some time with us to really make sure that we have the right pieces in place and we feel like the way the ordinance is written and the way our new policy is written, that it will allow our officers to engage in processions as safely as possible,” McIlvain said.