What is Prop B and Why Must Austin Vote NO!
Late last year, out-of-town signature gatherers, some posing as Equity Action, collected signatures on a measure with the same name, nearly the same caption, and very different content [see this redline showing the differences.] Voters for Oversight of Police Act, a PAC launched (we learned in January) by the Austin Police Association, said its goal was for voters to pass BOTH measures. If this happens, the clarity created by the REAL Austin Police Oversight Act will be lost. The City and the police will return to the bargaining table for a long term contract with no guardrails to ensure strong oversight and transparency. Again.
If passed, Prop B will negate Prop A without providing actual accountability. In order to implement Prop A, we must also defeat Prop B.
Prop B is Even Worse than What We Have Now.
- It eliminates anonymous complaints. Currently anonymous complaints allow police officers and the public to report misconduct without fear of retaliation, and they are doing so.
- The civilian oversight system will not have access to information about every incident or complaint, and will not be able to actively participate in classifying or investigating complaints.
- It expands the felony prohibition on membership on the oversight panel to include people with certain misdemeanors as well.
- The only way the city will be able to strengthen oversight will be through the police contract and with agreement by the police union, a system that has failed residents for decades now.
- In testimony FOR legislation to block all civilian oversight systems in Texas from unfettered access to information about incidents, APA President Thomas Villareal said, in no uncertain terms, that civilians should have no role in oversight of police.
Meanwhile, Police Misconduct Continues
Instead of real oversight, the City of Austin pays out on civil lawsuits while acknowledging no wrongdoing for a poorly performing police department. Austin paid roughly $17 million in 2022 to victims of police brutality, enough money to open pools, permanently fund much needed after school programs, parent support services and wraparound services for rehousing the unhoused. On Feb. 23rd, 2023 Council approved millions in settlements to four victims, including three protesters and the family of Landon Nobles (a case on appeal after a jury awarded $67 million.)
Late last year, Austin police shot Raj Moonesinghe in the back on his own front porch in Bouldin Creek after a neighbor called 911 to assist him with a possible intruder. Police arrived and shot him so quickly, it is likely that the bullets hit him before their commands arrived on the slower moving sound waves. The family wants justice, but most of all they want something like this to NEVER happen again to another family.
Meanwhile, the Austin police officers who shot Alex Gonzales were just reinstated, thanks to Chief Chacon’s decision to issue no discipline — against recommendations from our weakened civilian oversight bodies.
If you believe that police should not be left to police themselves, then you must vote YES for Prop A and NO on Prop B.