AUSTIN — The Austin Police Department has been working without a contract for nearly 10 months, but its union and an activism organization hope the talks they've had will help the City as it continues negotiations.
The Austin Justice Coalition and the Austin Police Association haven't always seen eye to eye, but throughout the year, its representatives said they've worked together to find some common ground.
"A lot of it is just the communication between the two organizations, between the community as a whole, and the Austin Police Association. The dialogue that we probably didn't have enough of in the past," APA bargaining officer Chris Perkins told KVUE.
Perkins and Chas Moore, AJC's executive director, have been meeting since the negotiations for a new police contract between the city and APA failed last December.
The city council cited concerns it was too costly and lacked transparency. At the time, Moore thought the contract was a waste of money and resources.
"Chris and I are not going to agree on everything. We're just fundamentally going to disagree with some things. But instead of focusing on that, let's look at the things that we both agree on," Moore said.
They both agree the City's now-suspended Citizen Review Panel, a group of volunteers that hears issues regarding policing, doesn't need to be included in the contract. However, they're still trying to find common ground on the idea of having an anonymous, online system to submit officer complaints.
"That's an area that we may not just fundamentally agree on, but it's like, 'OK, I get where you're coming from, and I can understand where you're coming from, so let's just agree on that,'" Moore said.
Perkins hopes their work doesn't go unnoticed.
"We're waiting. We've done a lot of the hard work. We've cut through a lot of the stuff and found some commonality in some places," he said. "I'm hoping that the council will hear our conversations and recognize, 'OK, now it's time. Mr. Manager, have your team sit back down, and let's work this contract out.'"
A City of Austin spokesperson sent KVUE the following statement:
The City Manager is gratified that the APA and AJC are meeting and talking, both when facilitated by our city Police Monitor, and independently. Those communications are helpful as the city and APA continue contract negotiations.