The Austin City Council on Thursday will vote on measures to bring some special pay back to police officers that was lost when the contract between the Austin police union and the city fell apart at the end of last year.
The meet-and-confer agreement outlined how officers were paid, promoted and disciplined. It also established oversight bodies like the now-suspended Citizen Review Panel, which allowed a group of civilians to look into cases of possible police misconduct and make recommendations to the Police Department’s leadership.
Without the contract, Austin police fell back onto the state’s Local Government Code 143, which essentially cut out civilian access to police records and hampered the department’s ability to hire and promote officers based on more factors than just a written test.
While negotiators will probably be chewing on questions of police benefits, transparency and accountability for months, Thursday’s vote will give officers special pay that was part of the previous contract to compensate them for education, experience, certifications and working certain shifts.
Those who work a patrol shift as mental health officers will make an additional $175 each month. Officers who are bilingual will also get an extra $175.
Those holding an intermediate, advanced or master certification from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education will make an additional $50, $100 or $150 each month, respectively.
Officers with college degrees will also get a bump. Any officer with an associate degree will take home an extra $100 each month. Bachelor’s degree holders will earn an additional $220, and officers with a master’s degree will get $300.
Officers who work evening or night shifts will earn $300 more each month, and officers will get added overtime pay for time spent in court under certain circumstances.
The City Council will also vote Thursday on a resolution directing the city manager to re-enter negotiations with the police union to get the ball rolling on a new contract. Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday told city leaders in late January that the union had selected its team and was ready to get back to work.
Officials have said drawing up a new agreement could take up to a year.
Casaday said the cuts to special pay that came when the former agreement expired have hit the department’s youngest officers the hardest, sometimes totaling up to $1,000 less a month.
For those who serve as mental health officers or field trainers, or work overnight shifts, the levels of responsibility and risk are often elevated, Casaday said.
“That is extra on top of what you would normally do as a patrol officer, and it takes a special kind of person to do that,” he said.
Giving officers incentives to do the extra work is also a tool that helps the department recruit good candidates and keep them in those needed roles longer, Casaday said.
When negotiations begin again, Casaday said, the union might look into increasing special pay specifically for Spanish speakers, who can spend a good part of their shifts translating.