"In a memo sent to Council and the mayor on Jan. 3, Grassroots Leadership's Chris Harris suggested that organizational math points to 'millions of dollars allocated under the old contract' that are now fair game for Council's reallocation into other programs that could address public safety: 'from improvements in forensics, to neighborhood lighting, permanent supportive housing for the homeless, drug & mental health treatment, youth programs, parks, pools and other human services.' Harris puts forward a $10.5 million estimate for special pay items, based on Council's budget questions and a Dec. 21 memo from interim City Manager Elaine Hart." Read more about APD’s Napkin Math
austin police department
"The police union's contract was up this year, and the city and community pressured the Austin Police Association to come up with a more equitable contract. Instead, activists argue, the police came back with some minor reforms that fell far short of what the city asked and demanded huge pay raises in exchange. So organizers flooded a city council meeting for nearly nine hours on Dec. 13 and, aided by national activists DeRay Mckesson and Samuel Sinyangwe, convinced the council to reject the contract.
'It was hectic. It was beautiful. It was democracy,' Chris Harris, a campaign coordinator for the Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, told Salon about that night. 'It was also the culmination of a lot of work a bunch of us have put in for a while."' Read more about Austin activists win important victory on abusive policing
"In its first meeting of 2018, Austin’s Public Safety Commission on Monday discussed opportunities to improve the Police Department’s body-worn camera policy. Austin police began rolling out body-worn cameras to patrol officers in three stations throughout the city in October. By the end of 2017, officers stationed in east, south and central Austin had been outfitted with the devices.
[...] Chris Harris, of the local organization Grassroots Leadership, told the commission that it is important to consider who the body-worn camera policy really works for, and said that in its current form, it is stacked in favor of police." Read more about Activists calling for improvements to Austin police’s body camera policies
Activists said the contract would perpetuate a broken system of citizen oversight and shield cops who engage in misconduct.Read more about Austin City Council Takes a Step Toward Police Reform, Rejects Union Contract
'"We have to have something different in place in this town. The time is now,' local activist Chris Harris said. 'This is only once every five years. If we don’t do it now, many of you won’t have another opportunity. So this is your chance, and I really implore you to take it.'
Harris called on the council to recognize that those who spoke against the contract included not just criminal justice advocates, but people who work in public health, mental health, academia, environmental issues and more who came to the council with the message: 'We must vote down this contract. We must begin to rethink public safety in this town in a new way,' he said." Read more about Austin council votes to send police contract back to negotiating table
"Austin police could find out as early as Wednesday if they will have a new contract to work under. A big crowd is expected at City Hall in the afternoon — to call on city council to scrap the entire contract all together.
More than 15 activist groups are asking council to not vote on this deal and rethink it.
'So we want to invest more in the root causes of public safety and that includes things like mental health services, treatment centers, counseling, youth programs, all up and down the chain and right now we feel we are over allocating to the police,' says Chris Harris, campaign coordinator with Grassroots Leadership." Read more about Big crowd expected as Austin city council debates APD contract
"Austin is the latest city where activists have sought police reform by targeting collective bargaining agreements." See this article's publication of the video made by Grassroots Leadership staff member Lewis Conway Jr. showing the Austin Police Union President defend police brutality against Breaion King.
"Activists also argue that some of the proposed reforms are either useless or half-baked. For instance, the union agreed to adjust a rule that APD only has 180 days from the date of any alleged misconduct to investigate and discipline officers. Under that rule, the officer caught on dash-cam video body-slamming Breaion King, a young black elementary school teacher, to the pavement during a 2015 traffic stop wasn’t investigated because higher-ups didn’t know about the incident until after the 180-day window had passed." Read more about How the Expiration of Austin’s Police Union Contract Could be a Rare Opportunity for Reform
Grassroots Leadership and local coalition partners are advocating to end meet-and-confer negotiations between the City of Austin and the Austin Police Association. We have hosted forums in districts 5 and 9 to educate the public about the broken contract and the need for city council members to vote 'no' on the contract. "Really, the goal is to get people in those districts to understand the issue, and more specifically to tie it to the role the union contract plays into the issue of police brutality and misconduct," said Chris Harris of Grassroots Leadership. "Then for them to go their to council members, because ultimately the Council is going to decide what happens." Read more about Activists Out to Derail Police Contract
KXAN covered the #TakeaKnee protests during the Austin City Council meeting on Thursday, October 19. Organizers are urging City Council to reject the police contract and end meet-and-confer negotiations with the Austin Police Association. "'What we have today is faux oversight, in name only,' said Harris. Grassroots Leadership and the Austin Justice Coalition want the city to place more power in the hands of civilians. The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition released a report that no civilian recommendations for police policy in Austin have ever become reality." Read more about Social justice groups take a knee at Austin City Council meeting