Police union ready to re-enter contract talks
Negotiating team ready to make ‘substantive proposals,’ leader says.
The Austin police union is ready to re-enter negotiations for a new contract with the city, interim City Manager Elaine Hart informed City Council members Monday.
In a letter to Hart on Friday, Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said the group had selected its negotiating team. They will return to talks when the city has selected its own team and is ready to “make substantive proposals, both economic and non-economic,” he said.
“We would hope that the parties can reach another mutual agreement that meets the needs of our citizens, city management, elected officials and APD officers, and that such agreement would be ratified by both association members and the mayor and council,” Casaday said in his letter.
The union also asked city leaders not to reduce pay and benefits for police officers while a new contract is worked up.
For the time being, officers are operating under rules laid out by Texas’ local government code, which limits how Austin police can handle hiring, promotions and pay for officers. The code does not include oversight and accountability measures that had been hashed out between the city and police for previous contracts.
The City Council voted to send a contract that had been negotiated over the course of more than nine months back to the negotiating table on Dec. 13 amid outcry from activists who said the agreement did not provide enough oversight and accountability for officers. Council members also worried about the new contract’s price tag.
On Jan. 23, Hart notified members of the City Council that all operations of the Citizen Review Panel, a civilian oversight body charged with examining cases of police misconduct, had been suspended after the proposed contract’s failure.
On Dec. 28, a day before the previous contract officially expired, 33 Austin police officers retired, allowing them to collect pay for accumulated sick time that they could have lost if they had stuck around.
Mayor Steve Adler (left) and interim Police Chief Brian Manley speak in December after the City Council postponed a vote on a $82 million police contract.