AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Association has been asked to continue negotiations on its police contract after the Austin City council voted Wednesday night not to move forward with the current proposal. The APA will be given until the end of March to make changes to the contract, if members decide to continue efforts to negotiate.
“The fact that the council voted unanimously shows how concerned we are,” said District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan.
Flannigan and fellow council members said two main issues kept them from voting to either approve or deny the contract as-is.
1. Fiscal issues
- City leaders were worried that if they approved the proposed contract’s 9.5 percent raise and extra stipends, there wouldn’t be enough funding left to add to the city’s police force.
“Our concern was making sure that we can accommodate hiring more police officers in the future,” said District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair.
Flannigan added, “The union and the police department have said, ‘we want more than 300 officers over the next five years,’ but if I approve this contract, I can’t even hire half that number.”
- Council members also say the numbers in the contract wouldn’t leave enough money for other programs that focus on issues such as substance abuse and homelessness.
“We have to find ways to provide public safety elements that don’t come through APD, like mental health-type things, and there’s only a limited amount of money,” said District 10 Council Member Alison Alter.
“Every choice we make on the city council is a tradeoff,” Flannigan explained. “We spend money over here, we can’t spend money over there.”
2. Accountability and Transparency
- City leaders say they worry with the nation’s current climate, the proposed contract didn’t offer enough in the way of holding officers accountable.
- Some member found issues with how the contract would regulate the complaints process and procedures for officers involved in incidents requiring review.
Alter said in recent years, “The reality is that the demands for accountability and transparency are different, and we have a higher standard that we need to hold people to, because we understand some of the challenges that have been created by the lack of transparency and accountability.”
Chief of Police Brian Manley said Thursday he couldn’t speculate as to whether the APA will move forward with negotiations or not.
“If the membership agrees to go back and renegotiate to work toward a deal that may be acceptable to council, then that’s what’s going to come up,” Manley said, “What is being asked for in the ways of additional transparency.”
The police association will hold a vote with its members soon. They will decide whether or not they want to move forward with negotiations. If they do, they’ll work on a new contract over the next couple of months. If they don’t, they’ll go back to operating under the state’s basic civil service regulations on Dec. 31.