AUSTIN (KXAN) – Voters in Austin overwhelmingly approved expanding police oversight. Proposition A received 79% support in Saturday’s election, while Prop B was rejected by more than 80% of voters.
“It’s a really big victory. There’s a strong mandate for improving police oversight and transparency in the city,” said Equity Action Board President Chris Harris.
The vast majority of voters approved of Prop A, while rejecting Prop B.
In the 231 precincts in which at least one vote was cast, Prop A prevailed in 220 precincts, while Prop B was rejected by voters in 227 precincts.
Use our interactive map below to see how your neighborhood voted.
What happens now?
The measure expands civilian oversight over the Austin Police Department in several ways. It allows the Office of Police Oversight to participate in investigations of officer conduct including anonymous complaints. It also gives its members direct access to all police records.
“They should have full, unfettered access to all the information around issues around incidents of misconduct and throughout investigations,” Harris said.
Harris said now that Prop A passed, the city can implement those changes on its own.
But there are other parts of the proposition that don’t align with current state law, like expanding the amount of time an officer can be investigated and disciplined.
“Some people may have heard of something called the 180-day rule. That’s in state law. It says after six months for most incidents, officers cannot be disciplined any longer,” Harris said. “We know that there’s a good number of incidents where the clock simply runs out. It’s not that misconduct didn’t occur, it’s that a complaint didn’t come in quick enough.”
Harris said extending that time needs to be in a police contract so the city council can vote on it. But contract negotiations are at a standstill with no agreement in sight.
Pushback against Prop A
The Austin Police Association did not get back to KXAN, but in a tweet, the APA wrote it will take immediate action to determine the city’s intentions with enforcing, “the illegal provisions.”
“The APA simply will not stand by while this city and anti-police activists operate with blatant disregard for state law and the rights and protections afforded to our hardworking men and women. The APA continues to prioritize negotiating a long-term contract; however, we will not be forced back to the table under a structure in which a new city ordinance attempts to unlawfully interfere with the statutory rights associated with the meet and confer process. We look forward to finding these answers so that we can get back under a long-term contract that allows for our police department to recruit, hire and retain the best and brightest people who wish to serve this community in a law enforcement capacity.”Austin Police Association
Harris said there is also pending legislation at the Texas Capitol that would impact provisions in Prop A.
“This bill would ensure that you know, any police oversight agency in you know, including Fort Worth, and Houston and San Antonio, and elsewhere, wouldn’t be able to investigate… wouldn’t be able to access information,” Harris said.
Harris said they’re planning on rallying people from around the state against the proposed bill.