On September 15th, Austin City Council voted to put the Austin Police Oversight Act (APOA) on the May 2023 ballot. This was disappointing because the city and the police are currently negotiating a new long-term contract that could prevent enactment of the the will of the voters on police oversight.
How? A police contract, once approved by both the police union and City Council, pre-empts state and local laws. The APOA addresses this problem by prohibiting the City Manager from bringing Council a proposed contract that does not implement the APOA. But that means the APOA must be in place before a contract comes to Council for a vote.
Unfortunately, the current police contract cannot be extended past March 31st.
There IS a clear solution to this problem of timing. The city could negotiate a very short term contract, extending the terms of the current contract, for just the additional time necessary to vote on the APOA. This is not a perfect solution. The current system is not working, but extending it for just a short period will ensure a much better system for the long term. Here’s a quick “explainer” about the ballot measure.
After the vote (assuming as we do that Austin voters will overwhelmingly call for a strong, transparent and independent oversight system that is not renegotiated every four years,) the terms of the new long-term contract can be finalized in accordance with APOA requirements.
Police shouldn’t police themselves. Tell City Council to unambiguously direct staff to present only a short term contract to the police association and let the voters pass a strong civilian oversight system into law.
Pick up the phone and CALL YOUR COUNCIL MEMBER!
Phone calls have the greatest impact, and after your call you can double that impact by sending a followup message to the whole Council using this form!
Mayor Steve Adler: 512-978-2100
District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison: 512-978-2101
District 2 Council Member Vanessa Fuentes: 512-978-2102
District 3 Council Member Pio Renteria: 512-978-2103
District 4 Council Member Chito Vela: 512-978-2104
District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen: 512-978-2105
District 6 Council Member Mackzenie Kelly: 512-978-2106
District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool: 512-978-2107
District 8 Council Member Paige Ellis: 512-978-2108
District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo: 512-978-2109
District 10 Council Member Alison Alter: 512-978-2110
If officers knew that brutality and misconduct would be disciplined, they would do it less. But that’s not how the system works today.
The Austin Police Oversight Act would ensure that allegations into police brutality and misconduct are taken seriously and investigated appropriately, keeping all of us safer. How?
- The Office of Police Oversight (OPO) will have clear authority to participate in investigations, conduct random audits of body camera video, analyze data and report to Council;
- The Community Police Review Commission will have clear authority to provide a second level of review of investigations into serious misconduct;
- Allegations of misconduct must be addressed within a year of the time the allegation is made, extending what is now a short 180 day deadline;
- No super-secret file of police conduct can be maintained and instead personnel records at the Austin Police Department will be handled as such records are handled by most police agencies, including the Travis County sheriff, and in accordance with Govt. Code Ch. 552, the Public Information Act;
- The City Manager is prohibited from bringing to Council a police contract that contravenes the Austin Police Oversight Act.