Police oversight community forums begin Wednesday

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Starting Wednesday, the city of Austin will host several community meetings to discuss the future of police oversight.

The city is looking into the best ways to hold officers accountable and make the Austin Police Department more transparent.

In March, the city manager was directed to figure out how his office can investigate complaints about police. 

For the last nine months, the police department has been working without a contract with the city, and until a new deal is reached, there can be no citizen-based police oversight.

The city is hoping through these meeting it can determine what the community wants and what the city can ask for at the negotiating table.

However, Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday says the city’s focus should be on a new police contract.

“We need to get a contract done and we had agreed to vast oversight in the contract that got voted down in December,” he said, recalling the last time they went before the city and the contract failed to pass. 

Casaday also discussed police oversight and said moving forward,  “[Austin Police Association] thinks that civilian oversight needs to be out in the contract, as do the activists. It’s just a matter of how the city can make that happen.”

In the meantime, Austinites can take an online survey to give feedback. It asks questions like, “What are your top priorities?” Options include transparency, use of statistical pattern analysis and access to law enforcement executives and internal affairs staff. 

“We tried, really hard, everyone tried, but really couldn’t come to an agreement on what a citizen group would look like,” said Rebecca Webber, chairperson for the Public Safety Commission and a former Citizen Review Panel Member. She is now one of several on the Police Oversight Advisory Working Group.

The group, which is made up of several groups including members of the former Citizen Review Panel, the NAACP, Austin Police and the police union, have been working on what the future of a citizen’s review panel should look like, but have not been able to come to a conclusion.

Now, they’re hoping the community’s input will guide them in the right direction. 

“What we’re really hoping the community will give us feedback at these forums is, do they even want a citizen review panel? Do they think the model we had could just be improved on and we implement that again? Or should we go and do something completely new?” Webber asked.

Community Forums on Police Oversight

Wednesday, September 19, 6 – 7 p.m. 

Location: Our Lady Of Guadalupe Parish

1206 E 9th St, Austin, TX 78702

Saturday, September 22, 11 – 12 p.m.

Location: Gus Garcia Recreation Center

1201 E Rundberg Ln, Austin, TX 78753

Tuesday, September 25 6 – 7 p.m.

Location: Greater Mount Zion Baptist Church

4301 Tannehill Lane Austin, TX 78721

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