AUSTIN, Texas — The City of Austin has reached an agreement with the Austin Police Association (APA) for a new four-year police contract.
The City said the agreement includes oversight provisions and efforts to boost Austin Police Department recruitment, to deal with an ongoing officer shortage.
The current contract is set to lapse at the end of March, and this new agreement still has to get the City Council's approval.
"This is the product of over a year of work as both sides have worked diligently to arrive at this agreement," APD Chief Joseph Chacon said in a Thursday press conference. "Both the association and the City have considered and weighed all the issues and we find ourselves with an agreement that, once approved, will both provide significant enhancements to the pay and benefits of the police officers, as well as powerful improvements to the police department operations."
Chacon said improvements are included in the promotional process to ensure APD is promoting its "best and brightest" into leadership positions and to increase diversity of the leadership staff. Chacon also said that the agreement provides a system of police oversight that is "second to none."
"Not since the inception of police oversight in Austin over 20 years ago has such a progressive step been taken to ensure police accountability through an independent department that has a great ability to monitor police complaint investigations than every before," Chacon said, adding, "Importantly, it fulfills as many of the tenants of the citizen-initiated petition as allowable under law and without a protracted legal battle."
Thomas Villarreal, president of the APA, said that the association is "not afraid of oversight" and strongly believes that the "citizens of Austin, the City of Austin itself, the department, our members are all better off under contract."
The City and the union had been at odds over the contracts in recent months.
In December of last year, the APA said on Twitter that the City and the city manager had turned on APD officers as they continued to disagree about police oversight.
"We created the most robust oversight system in the state, still wasn't good enough," the APA tweeted, adding that City Manager Spencer Cronk "wants to weaponize a system that makes officers political pawns."
The APA concluded by saying that it "continues to work while the city walks away."
Later, in a statement to KVUE, the City said police oversight was never on the table in contract negotiations. The City said from the beginning, oversight was going to be removed from the contract and that the plan has always been to make oversight part of a separate program.
The City and the APA have been in contract negotiations since the end of September 2022. Around that time, APA leaders told KVUE that going out of contract would cause major problems for the police department, including making staffing shortages worse. The APA said the APD could have to temporarily suspend some police units, which could cause a mass retirement of officers.