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

COMMUNITY NEWS: A&M extension holds food preservation workshop

TRAVIS COUNTY LAKEWAY Sing Along to present vaudeville theater Lakeway Sing Along will present its 18th annual spring show, “Vaudeville & Beyond,” at 6 p.m. April 26-28 at the Lakeway Activity Center, 105 Cross Creek. The shows will include dinner with music by the Lohman’s Crossing Band. Tickets are $30 and available at the activity...
Federal money to connect Texas schools to fiber at risk, officials say
Federal money to connect Texas schools to fiber at risk, officials say

Delays and denials by the federal government are putting Texas schools at risk of losing millions of dollars in potential subsidies that would help pay for installing high-speed fiber internet in classrooms, according to state officials. Last year, state lawmakers approved $25 million to help school districts over the 2018-19 budget period replace...
In gentrifying East Austin, are dogs replacing children?
In gentrifying East Austin, are dogs replacing children?

Olga Hernandez sat on the porch of her East Eighth Street house on a warm April afternoon, offering a few minutes to the latest reporter to come through asking about gentrification in her quickly changing neighborhood. Between pointing out rental units, she called hello to a young man and woman walking dogs down the sidewalk. Hernandez, 67, recently...
Opinion: Playboy comes to D.C.

Playboy Enterprises just announced that it has purchased a table at this year’s White House Correspondents Association dinner. Swell. Just what we need. The dinner, as you’ve probably heard, is an annual ritual of narcissism in which leading press figures don black tie and hope to see, or better yet, be seen with, Hollywood stars. Like...
California murder suspect arrested after SWAT standoff in Pflugerville
California murder suspect arrested after SWAT standoff in Pflugerville

A California man suspected of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend earlier this week was arrested in Pflugerville on Saturday after an hourslong standoff with SWAT officers. Kevin Darnell Dickson, 55, was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Lone Star Fugitive Task Force and Austin police at about 1 p.m. Saturday. He had been barricaded inside a home...
More Stories