AUSTIN - Final negotiations are set to begin tomorrow between Austin police and the City of Austin to address working conditions like officer pay and benefits. But several key issues remain unresolved, leading to questions about what happens if they can't strike a deal.
The Austin American-Statesman and KVUE's Tony Plohetski has been looking into those potential impacts to both the city and officers.
This isn't a situation where officers would go on strike or walk off the job, but a lack of a contract could still change things for police and citizens alike.
Austin is one of several cities statewide that gives officers the ability to negotiate with the city. Now, those talks are nearing an end and there are questions about whether the city should even negotiate with police at all.
For months, Chas Moore has been watching city and police sitting across each other in negotiations, thinking that the city isn't getting a good enough deal.
"The city has been paying all these benefits and extra incentives to the police department for years and they have not once gotten anything out of that contract, so it's a complete waste of time, resources and money," Moore said.
The community activist joined several others recently in coming up with a list of items the city should consider before signing a new contract. At least one of those demands is now a sticking point. Under a proposal, officers would give up their right to be investigated and disciplined within 180 days of a policy violation.
The measure is in response to the August 2015 arrest of teacher Breaion King.
Former Police Chief Art Acevedo says he didn't know about the case until after a state deadline passed to punish the officer.
"He wanted to do something about it, but he couldn't because of the way it is written in the contract right now," Moore said.
Here's what police say no contract would mean:
- Hiring and promotions would be made based solely on a written exam, with no credit for diversity, language skills or a college degree.
- Officers also would lose payouts for unused sick time, which they say would cause mass retirements immediately.
- And civilians who are part of the police monitor's office would have less access to investigative records.
Police say they are hopeful for an agreement. Moore says he's not so sure.
"The police officers in Austin, the police association, they want the city to pay them more money before they start doing a better job," he said.
In the more than a decade that police and the city have negotiated contracts, they have never reached an impasse, so this would be the first time.
Even if the city and police do come up with a tentative agreement it would still need to be approved by the city council.
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