AUSTIN (KXAN)– The City of Austin and the Austin Police Association reached an agreement in principle for a four-year police contract.
City Council still needs to approve the contract before any of the measures go into effect. During Thursday’s council meeting, members discussed a measure brought forward by Council Member Chito Vela that opts for a one-year contract. Council will discuss the contract again next week.
City and police department leaders held a press conference Thursday morning for an official announcement. Watch the full conference in the video player below.
The contract has been under negotiation for almost a year. The agreement is subject to Austin City Council approval.
If approved, it would incorporate the goals of attaining a stable environment for Austin Police officers, attractive recruitment and retention strategies and progressive police oversight, a press release said.
Chief Joseph Chacon said the tentative contract is a four-year, long-term labor agreement.
“This is the product of over a year of work as both sides have worked diligently to arrive at this agreement,” Chacon said at the announcement. “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.”
APA President Thomas Villarreal said the organization believes “the citizens of Austin, the City of Austin, the department and its members, are all better off under contract.”
“We’ve worked for almost a year to negotiate for what’s a fair deal for our people and for the city, and I think that we got there,” Villarreal said.
The agreement also includes provisions that allow the City’s Office of Police Oversight (OPO) to investigate complaints against police officers during both the preliminary and formal investigative process. It will allow OPO to be in the room, asking questions and getting answers from the officers.
It would also provide across-the-board pay increases for officers, bringing a 14% increase for APD Officers over four years with a total value of $64.7 million.
To improve recruitment and retention, the city has “utilized a creative approach that puts our money where our mouth is and gives further across-the-board increases of 1.5% to officers each year respectively if the city is not able to meet its hiring goals,” said the city’s interim labor relations officer Sarah Griffin.
The city’s goal would be to hire 200 officers by the end of 2024 and an additional 200 officers the following year, Griffin said. Additionally, to retain officers, the agreement creates an additional step pay increase to officers who have reached 23 years of service with the department as an incentive for those officers to stay. The agreement also includes a pilot program for promotions that includes a probationary component.
Previously, the city and APA clashed on adding police oversight to the labor contract in December. Earlier this week, city manager Spencer Cronk released a letter saying he was optimistic a negotiation would be reached.