Meet-and-confer negotiations with police ineffective, groups say


Highlights

Several community organizations said meet-and-confer negotiations with the police union are ineffective.

The group issued several recommendations to improve police accountability, public oversight and transparency.

A group of Austin community advocacy organizations came together Tuesday to call on city leaders to end meet-and-confer negotiations with the Austin police officers’ union.

“We have met and not conferred,” said Lewis Conway, a representative of Grassroots Leadership and Texas Advocates for Justice. “We have discussed and not agreed. We agree that not only have they been able to operate with impunity under this agreement, but we also agree that we are creating a condition (in which) civilian oversight doesn’t even matter anymore.”

Advocates said they have participated in the negotiations — which use input from stakeholders from the city, police association and community groups to draft a contract — to call for more police accountability.

“Embedded within that contract, that agreement, are many of the rules that govern how officers are disciplined, as well as how they are paid and their benefits,” local activist Chris Harris said. “So this represents a vital opportunity for the city to come together and to impart our values into this document, and attempt to impart more accountability, transparency and oversight over the Police Department.”

However, the group — which also included members of the American Civil Liberties Union, Austin Justice Coalition, Black Sovereign Nation, Communities of Color United, Texas Civil Rights Project and Texas Criminal Justice Coalition — characterized the negotiations that go into building the city’s contract with police as one-sided and ineffective.

RELATED: Austin presents changes to police monitor’s role in union contract talks

The organizations on Tuesday shared with the media a set of recommendations they’ve presented during the latest negotiations, which include: reforming the department’s 180-day rule, which limits the amount of time the police chief has to discipline officers; eliminating automatically downgraded suspensions; giving subpoena power to current oversight bodies; allowing misconduct to be considered equitably in promotions; allowing citizens to make complaints online or over the phone; allow the police monitor to initiate investigations even without a citizen complaint; stop permanently sealing records related to police misconduct; and releasing records without removing content.

Many of the recommendations, they said, were met with smirks from those advocating for police.

Chas Moore of the Austin Justice Coalition said the purpose of meet and confer was establish accountability, and to discipline officers who engage in misconduct.

“We’ve had plenty of critical incidents all the way from Sophia King, up to David Joseph, up to Morgan Rankins, and very little accountability,” Moore said. “If we created (meet-and-confer) for this thing and we’re not getting it, what are we paying for?”

Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said he couldn’t speak to any specifics related to the negations, but he believes that the city is happy with what they have worked out so far.

SEE ALSO: Council approves $17 million contracts for Austin police body cameras

“The association’s priority is for the safety and well-being of all citizens of Austin and our officers. Our city has been heralded as one of the safest in the country, and that is because of the men and women of the Austin Police Department. I’m not able to speak to any specifics with the negotiations, but I’m confident that our agreement will maintain our standing as one of the most transparent police departments in the country,” he said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

CANCHOLA TRIAL: Murder charge tossed after medical examiner’s flip-flop
CANCHOLA TRIAL: Murder charge tossed after medical examiner’s flip-flop

A man who is suspected of beating his boyfriend to death no longer faces several felony charges, including a murder charge, after a Travis County judge tossed out the bulk of a medical examiner’s controversial testimony on Monday. State district Judge David Wahlberg reversed his ruling from last week, announcing statements given from the witness...
Man offered $25k to kill ex-girlfriend, sheriff’s office says

TRAVIS COUNTY Officials: Man offered $25k to kill ex-girlfriend Travis County sheriff’s deputies on Monday arrested a man accused of trying to hire an acquaintance to kill his ex-girlfriend. Keith James Cote has been charged with criminal solicitation (to commit capital murder), according to the sheriff’s office. Cote offered someone $10...
Despite dropped charges, four Democrats to challenge Rep. Dawnna Dukes
Despite dropped charges, four Democrats to challenge Rep. Dawnna Dukes

Following Travis County prosecutors’ decision on Monday to drop all charges in the corruption case against her, state Rep. Dawnna Dukes is now out of legal trouble — but she’s not yet out of political trouble. Four Democrats who had previously said they plan to run for Dukes’ heavily Democratic House District 46 confirmed Monday...
Poll finds most Texans think DACA program should be extended
Poll finds most Texans think DACA program should be extended

Nearly 60 percent of Texans want to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects from deportation some 124,000 Texans who arrived as children and remained in the country illegally, according to results of the University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released Monday. Answering a separate question, slightly more than half oppose...
Murder trial begins in Sixth Street shootings that killed 1, injured 4
Murder trial begins in Sixth Street shootings that killed 1, injured 4

A trial begins this week for a man accused of firing shots into a Sixth Street crowd around closing time, killing a woman and wounding four other people. Endicott McCray, 26, was aiming for his brother-in-law but missed and instead shot five others, including Teqnika Marie Moultrie, who was in town visiting her wife’s family and died of a head...
More Stories