AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, the Austin Police Association had another meeting to continue its contract negotiations with the city. The current contract expires on Sept. 30, 2022.
Outside of the meeting, the Austin Justice Coalition called for the new contract to include more provisions for transparency from the department.
“We really want to see and into the, what’s called the G file, which is the secret file where all police records go. We want to see that information about police brutality and misconduct is made available to the public, so there’s not secrecy anymore at the department. And we also want to see that the civilian oversight system is empowered,” Chris Harris with the coalition explained Monday.
Harris said the group hopes that would include allowing civilians to gather evidence.
“Right now, there’s a blanket prohibition on our civilian oversight office from gathering evidence. It says right in the contract they cannot gather evidence. And so we need to lift this provision. We need to allow this group to look into all the police have access to, all the police files, body cameras, all the documents,” Harris continued.
“We think hopefully that this will help deter the police from committing wrongdoing in the first place,” Harris said.
The last contract was approved in the fall of 2018.
Chas Moore with the coalition said this year’s negotiations are important, since it’s the first new contract since the 2020 protests. Those protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd, called for criminal justice reform.
“Austin, back in 2020, decided that we were going to be dedicated to actually making Black lives matter and brown lives matter,” he said Monday, adding that same sentiment needed to be proven with more transparency in the new contract.
But, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas said the current system in place to hold officers accountable is already enough. Wilkinson said it wouldn’t be fair to release case details to the public before an investigation is complete.
“No one wants bad cops. But we want every police officer that’s been accused of wrongdoing to have a fair trial,” Charley Wilkinson, executive director of CLEAT, countered on Monday.
“If we’re going to have a complaint system and a structure to it, and we’re going to need to have those complaints to be legitimate, they’re gonna need to be investigated, unless we’re just going to continue with the witch hunt,” Wilkinson said.
He added changing the current system could also add to staffing shortages the Austin Police Department is already facing.
“Why would you stay in Austin, Texas and be ridiculed for a profession that you chose to save lives to protect the community and risk yours?” he continued.
The contract negotiation discussions on Monday did not touch on changes to oversight processes. The conversation included drug testing provisions and probation stipulations for officers.
Even if a deal isn’t struck between the city and APA by Sept. 30, negotiations could be extended another six months. After an agreement is reached, it will then go before city council for a final vote.