Police: Special Pay Benefits Back, Contract Negotiations Coming Soon

February 25, 2018
Austin Chronicle

"After a confusing bit of parliamentary gymnastics, City Council last week approved a pair of amendments directing the city manager to resume meet-and-confer negotiations with the Austin Police Association, and also restoring most of the special pay provisions officers lost when union membership voted against extending the old contract back in December. Though police interests praised the action, the city's activist community left the meeting on Thursday feeling like Council had forgotten the voices that only two months ago called for a new approach to public safety spending. At the tail-end of talks, Grass­roots Leadership organizer Chris Harris summed up the afternoon: 'We're banging our heads against a wall.'

... Harris was more blunt, asking why Council would restore funding when union membership could've agreed to an extension in Dec­ember. 'Three weeks ago, Bryan Richter, the officer that brutalized Breaion King, was finally fired after another brutal arrest,' he said. 'This is a force that still employs Patrick Spradlin, the officer who made blatantly racist remarks to King in the back of the vehicle. Instead of restoring perks that they walked away from, we ask that you restore the oversight that was also lost when the police left the negotiation table and killed their own contract.'

Despite those arguments, council members expressed concern about the impacts on officers and ultimately approved both resolutions. Negotiators will be tasked with increasing field training and longevity in the next round of bargaining. APA President Ken Casaday expressed satisfaction in the results and indicated that the union will be ready to go back to the table as soon as Council gives them a date. As that happens, the activist coalition will continue its work on a plan to overhaul the oversight process with an independent complaint system. 'We'd like to see a chance for something like it to get off the ground and see what it can do,' Harris said. 'And then see how it could be strengthened, potentially, via contract or some other method.'"