- Katie Hall
- Mark Wilson American-Statesman Staff
After approval from the Austin police union, a proposed five-year police employment contract is now ready to go to the Austin City Council, which will decide whether to implement it or scrap it.
The proposed deal, approved by 85 percent of the union members, would raise officers’ base pay 9.5 percent over five years. Patrol officers also would receive stipends they haven’t received before – a move that police leaders said would encourage higher-ranking officers with more experience to return to the streets, potentially improving the quality of interactions citizens have with Austin police.
These pay increases do not count the existing raises officers are already entitled to receive over time as they gain seniority.
Counting the proposed stipends, officers would receive a 12 percent raise in total through this contract, said Larry Watts of the city’s Labor Relations Department.
In exchange, officers agreed to a few disciplinary changes in the contract, including allowing people to make anonymous complaints against one or more officers and adjusting the way the state’s time window to investigate officer misconduct is implemented.
Currently, police leaders have 180 days to investigate officer misconduct cases, starting from the date the incident allegedly happened. For cases in which alleged misconduct is potentially criminal — even if charges are not filed — the new contract proposes the 180-day window to start the day an assistant chief or police chief discovers it. This would include instances of excessive force.
However, when it comes to policy violations in which officers are not believed to have a committed a crime, officials would still have only 180 days from the day the policy violation happened to suspend an officer.
“The resounding level at which this contract was approved – with an 85 percent pass rate – I think, demonstrates that the men and women of the Austin Police Department accept oversight, accept accountability, and understand that improvements to both oversight and accountability that are built into this proposed contract are good for both the department and the community at large,” Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said.
He said the contract would also allow the city’s Police Monitor to file complaints against officers, and for members of the public to file complaints anonymously.
Several Austin activist organizations have been urging city council members to vote against the contract. Some are frustrated by the raises officers would receive, saying that the police budget dominates too much of the city’s general fund.
Others said they were disappointed that the contract changes did not include subpoena power for the Citizen Review Panel that would have allowed the Austin police civilian oversight body to do independent investigations.