Members of Austin’s Public Safety Commission and the Citizen Review Panel have recommended that the City Council approve a proposed contract with Austin police that ties pay increases to greater transparency and police accountability.
Several activists spoke out against the five-year contract, saying it does not provide enough oversight, and that more could be done to ensure that the officials charged with monitoring the department have greater access and more power to do their jobs effectively.
Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said that while activists weren’t happy, the police union didn’t get all they wanted either in the contract, which had been under negotiation for the past 10 months.
He also said moving forward without a contract could result in mass retirements, limit the agency’s ability to hire new officers and force them to instead rely solely on a test.
The proposed contract won the union’s support with 85 percent of members approving the pact.
Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said the contract improves accountability by allowing citizens to submit anonymous complaints against officers and by allowing complaints to come from the Office of the Police Monitor.
The contract is on the Dec. 14 Austin City Council agenda, but Mayor Steve Adler and council members will likely move the vote to Dec. 13, based on council members’ conversations Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the Citizen Review Panel — which examines critical police incidents such as officer-involved shootings and offers feedback to the police chief about the way they were handled — endorsed the proposed contract in an email to Adler and the council, “despite the continued secrecy of some Citizen Review Panel recommendations.”
In April, the panel urged that the future police contract include two new provisions:
- Make public all Citizen Review Panel recommendations to the police chief
- Make public all the police chief’s responses to Citizen Review Panel recommendations
The proposed contract now makes the chief’s responses public. In the chief’s response, the following information must be redacted: names of officers, the incident’s location and date, “and any other information which can identify the officers involved.”
Additionally, the Citizen Review Panel asked the city’s legal team reduce the “excessive redactions” on their recommendations.
Such redactions “have contributed to the lack of transparency and lack of trust about Austin’s citizen oversight process,” the members wrote. “Just because Citizen Review Panel recommendations can be redacted under state law does not mean that they must be redacted when there are significant public policy reasons for being more transparent with the Community and the APA membership.”