AUSTIN - After an hours-long meeting that got heated at times, the Austin City Council delayed the vote on a new controversial contract with the Austin Police Department.
At the specially-called meeting, the council heard testimony from officers and citizens throughout the evening as they weigh the five-year employment agreement. More than 150 people signed up to address the council -- an usually large group. Many of them were police officers themselves, but there were also dozens of community members at City Hall as well to speak out against the contract.
Under the current contract, police officers can get paid up to 1,700 hours in sick time they haven't used; it's a benefit in their current contract and is included in the new proposal.
Officials said if it isn't approved -- they fear officers eligible to retire will leave before the end of the year instead of losing that money.
Many supporters of the contract -- including members of APD and their family members -- showed up wearing shirts saying, "Keep Austin Safe." They said the contract will help recruit new officers and improve diversity within APDs ranks.
But critics -- including community groups such as the Austin Justice Coalition -- said that the contract's $80 million cost is too much and that the money is better spent on other projects.
Interim Police Chief Brian Manley told the council he fully supports the contract.
"I believe that as in any negotiation, neither party may have walked away with everything they wanted from the beginning, but I think both parties walked away leaving a proposal in front of you that addresses the concerns that were brought about at the initiation of the contract," Manley said.
Ken Casaday of the Austin Police Association, also voiced his approval of the contract Wednesday evening.
"It is the most transparent contract in the state; our chief of police is saying it is, our city manager is saying it is," Casaday said. "A vote no today will be a slap in the face of the association and all it's officers, a slap in the face of the citizens and our city manager."
Chas Moore of the Austin Justice Coalition expressed the need for more examination.
"We can't do that, putting so much money into old institutions and old systems that really haven't changed and that's all we are trying to challenge today," he said. "I think the only ask is is that we ask city council to really take the time to examine this contract."
On Wednesday, the Austin Police Association released the following statement regarding the contract postponement:
"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."
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