Austin Police Association reacts to council vote to renegotiate contract

The future of Austin's contract with its police officers remains up in the air.

AUSTIN - Members of the Austin Police Department said they are disappointed by the Austin City Council's unanimous decision to send the employment contract with the police association back to the negotiating table.

More than 100 people signed up to tell to the city council what they thought about the contract Wednesday night.

The five-year, $82 million deal was negotiated by the Austin Police Association and city staff and approved by the city's Public Safety Commission. It would give officers raises and supporters said it improved accountability by making it easier for the public to report issues.

But opponents argue the contract lacks transparency and is costly.

"This contract was going to give them a thousand dollars for ratifying it. It was going to give them money to be on patrol. And part of what we're asking for is if we're going to do those stipends and we're going to gonna do those extras, they have to be based in operational needs that we have for delivering public safety," said Austin City Council Member Alison Alter (District 10).

The council voted to send the contract back to the Austin Police Association (APA) to renegotiate by March 22. That's the latest the APA could extend the contract negotiations.

The APA released the following statement on the action:

We are disappointed that the City Council did not vote to support the negotiated contract between the City and the Austin Police Association. We will be meeting with our board and membership over the next several days and we will make a decision regarding next steps based on the input from our officers. The APA and the men and women of our police department will continue to make citizen safety our number one priority.

If the APA membership turns down the offer to renegotiate, the contract will end Dec. 29. Interim Police Chief Brian Manley said that would bring significant changes to how officers are promoted.

"What's really significant is the impact this would have on hiring and promotion," Manley said. "Right now we have the ability to promote individuals based on both a written test and an assessment center. The assessment center are exercises that test officers' communication skills, interpersonal skills, ability to multi-task and think through complex situations that are occurring very quickly. All the things that are important in the supervisors of the department."

"If we go back under Local Government Code 143, then we will fall under a testing-only promotion system," Manley added. "So individuals will be promoted based on how they perform on a written test only and that's concerning that it may not allow you to promote the best and the brightest and the most well-rounded candidates that we have in the department."

If the APA decides to end negotiations, Austin police would operate as a civil service police department effective Dec. 30.

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