AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police will officially not have a new contract by the end of the year, as a majority of officers supported the Austin Police Association’s decision to operate under a civil service law instead of renegotiating with the city council.
After months of negotiations, last week Austin city council voted unanimously to reject the proposed police contract and send it back to the negotiating table. It said it wanted to consider a new proposal at the end of March. However, the APA said Tuesday it does not believe it will be able to reach a new agreement and so will not negotiate a new contract now, but will be open to renegotiating later next year once a new city manager is chosen.
“While the Association is disappointed that the mutually beneficial 5-year contract was not ratified by the Mayor and Council, we accept the democratic process that affords the Mayor and Council the right to ratify or note,” APA President Kenneth Casaday wrote in a letter to the interim city manager.
Officers voted on Sunday and Monday to show what they thought of the APA’s decision to not renegotiate now — 92.23 percent of the 1,415 members said they supported it, while 7.77 percent said they did not.
The contract council rejected would have raised officers’ salaries by 9.5 percent over five years and provide a stipend for high-ranking, more experienced officers to return to patrol. It would also change rules on internal investigations to give leaders 180 days from when they heard about possible criminal misconduct — as opposed to 180 days from when the incident happened — to respond.
Now, officers will work under a civil service law, which means Austin Police Department leadership would be required to hire and promote based on written test scores instead of using demographic or performance metrics, said Police Chief Brian Manley. The Citizen Review Panel will no longer have access to internal documents when investigating claims about the police. Officers would be paid less and their retirement plans could change, which may prompt some to retire early. Almost 150 will be eligible to retire by the end of December.
Two main reasons city council rejected the proposed contract were fiscal issues and concerns about accountability and transparency.