The president of the Austin chapter of the NAACP spoke out Tuesday in support of the Austin Police Association's meet-and-confer agreement with the City that will expire come Friday at midnight, something Nelson Linder called dangerous.
"If we go back to 143, it's going way back in time," Linder said.
His reference of 143 is Texas Local Government Code Chapter 143, the civil service state law officers are expected to work under, once the contract expires.
"It's almost going back to horse and buggy because you have no diversity in hiring," Linder said. "You're going to lose a lot of things they can do that they're doing right now in terms of calling investigations, gathering data, being at the scene."
Linder has purposely stayed silent during the months-long negotiations between the City and the APA, allowing for newer civil rights voices to be heard. But no more.
"This is their day in the sun and they haven't done very well because, number one, you haven't consulted your elders because they would tell you number one, you have to work with police," said Linder.
Linder has been the President of the NAACP since 2000, during a period when the Austin police department did not have a contract with the City. He warned that it was not a good time for minorities.
"I would say it's an understanding of where things are, of where things were," Linder said. "This city was very tough in 2000. We had 143, almost no accountability, no information. Then we had civilian oversight in 2002, where these cases have been highly documented and we've been one of the most vetted police departments in the country. Nobody can deny that, and because of that opposition and communication, things are much better in 2017."
As for accountability, Linder pointed to officer firings in cases where minority men were shot and killed by Austin police:
- Julie Schroeder for shooting and killing Daniel Rocha in June of 2005.
- Michael Olsen for shooting and killing Kevin Brown in June 2007.
- Charles Kleinart for shooting and killing Larry Jackson in July 2013.
- Jeffrey Freeman for shooting and killing David Joseph in February 2016.
"We've had more accountability here than probably anywhere else in the country in the past seven years," said Linder. "Under 143 we had nothing, so what are you comparing us to? Hopefully not Chicago. Hopefully not Baltimore. Hopefully not Albuquerque, and certainly not Ferguson."
Linder also said that he is hopeful unofficial, behind-the-scenes negotiations may yield a last-minute contract ratification.
However, Ken Casaday, the President of the APA, is not optimistic.
So far, at least 27 officers have put in notices to retire.