Austin picks interim police monitor to lead oversight of cops

3:37 p.m Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 Politics
Deven Desai

Austin’s interim city manager has selected an interim police monitor to provide oversight of a police department headed by an interim police chief.

Interim City Manager Elaine Hart on Tuesday named the city’s chief labor relations officer, Deven Desai, to take over the police monitor’s office. Police Monitor Margo Frasier is retiring on Jan. 31.

“I think it’s a good choice,” Frasier told the American-Statesman. “He certainly knows the players.”

The police monitor’s office, a civilian oversight panel that works exclusively with Austin police but is not a part of the Police Department, deals with cases related to alleged violations of police departmental policy.

The city hired Desai as an assistant city attorney in 2007. In that position, he acted as the city’s primary legal representative for the police monitor’s office before being promoted in 2011, a memo from Hart to the mayor and city council said.

Interim police Chief Brian Manley said he has “worked directly with Deven many times over the years and (I) have full confidence in his ability to successfully lead the police monitor’s office.”

“I am committed to working with him in his new role to ensure a fair, impartial and transparent oversight process,” Manley said in an emailed statement.

In his new role, Desai will likely face the renegotiation of the city’s police union contract, which expires this year. The contract needs to be approved this year, but major changes to the contract could be put off until 2018, or after a permanent city manager, police chief and police monitor are hired.

It will be a familiar process for Desai, who represented the city in previous negotiations of the police union contract. However, Desai will be acting in an advisory role to the city instead of as the lead negotiator.

“Whatever negotiations happen and whenever they happen, I will be serving the role on behalf of the office of the police monitor,” Desai said.

Tom Stribling in the labor relations office will take over as acting chief labor relations officer.

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