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Austin police oversight initiative meets threshold for spot on May 2023 ballot

More than 20,000 signatures gathered by Equity Action have been validated. The measure heads to the city council, where they can vote on it or put it on the ballot.

AUSTIN, Texas — A local political action group, Equity Action, is one step closer to putting a police oversight initiative on Austin's May 2023 ballot. 

On Wednesday, the group said the Austin City Clerk had validated more than 20,000 of 33,000 total signatures submitted in support of the Austin Police Oversight Act (APOA). That meets the threshold to get the measure on a ballot. 

The act, if passed, would create a local law governing the City of Austin's Office of Police Oversight and Community Police Review Commission, removing them from contract negotiations with the police union. The group said the act would strengthen external civilian oversight of APD and attempt to improve transparency.

Now that the certification threshold has been met, the Austin City Council has 10 days to meet once councilmembers are notified of the valid initiative position. They then can make two choices, which include voting on the proposal or putting it on the May 2023 ballot for Austin voters to decide. 

RELATED: Report: Police oversight voter initiative disqualified from Austin's November ballot

“The people of Austin have sent a clear message that they don’t want another police contract that enables unaccountable police brutality and misconduct. While we would’ve preferred to have this go to the voters in order to avoid another four or five years of police secrecy and impunity, the Austin City Council must vote the ordinance into law themselves right now," Chris Harris, president of Equity Action, said in a release. "Passing this now strengthens police oversight and transparency in this next contract, but postponing until a May ‘23 election means waiting until the contract in 2026 or 2027 to improve police accountability. This should be an easy choice for this Council."

The latest step to get the APOA before City leaders and voters comes after Equity Action delivered the signatures to the city clerk without enough time to get the measure on the November 2022 ballot. 

According to a previous report by KVUE's news partners at the Austin American-Stateman, the City Clerk's Office had not completed the verification process a day before the deadline to order a meeting of the city council to schedule the election. 

The Austin Police Association provided the following statement on Thursday:

"The Austin Police Association is aware that the petition to change police oversight has been validated by the City Clerk’s Office. The issue at hand is not a point of police oversight, accountability or transparency, as the anti-police crowd who run Equity Action would like for you to believe. The real issue here is that a handful of people want to control what oversight looks like in Austin, Texas. Instead, we should allow all stakeholders to talk about what is best for OUR community. We have the most robust oversight in the entire State of Texas and it’s been a part of our police department for over 20 years.

"The same crowd who believe that officers are hiding behind a veil of 'police secrecy and impunity' sat in favor of our current contract language in 2018. Nothing has changed other than leaders of this city have allowed a handful of unelected people to completely dictate how our city is run.

"As for this petition, we will see what legal issues are brought forward to council. There are many… and council members know it."

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