Police contract negotiations expected to continue for at least ‘several more months’

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The police contract negotiation between the city of Austin and the Austin Police Association is expected to continue for “several more months at a minimum,” according to a May 15 memo from City Manager Spencer Cronk to City Council.

The city expects to continue negotiations when the citizen oversight article, which addresses the Office of the Police Monitor, is reviewed and new terms are agreed to based on ongoing research of best practices nationally, per the memo.

The OPM is an independent civilian, administrative office that provides oversight of the police department, assessing citizen complaints, monitoring the APD’s investigations of complaints, making recommendations on policy and conducting community outreach.

The Austin Police Department has operated without a contract since its previous one expired Dec. 29. City Council rejected a proposed new contract on Dec. 13, citing concerns about cost and affordability.

Without a contract in place, the APD has operated according to state civil service law, which affects hiring, promotion, pay and oversight.

In January, the Citizen Oversight Panel, a five-member panel of volunteers that oversees the APD’s disciplinary practices, was also suspended due to the lack of a contract to ensure its provision.

Negotiations resumed in late February after Cronk began his tenure as city manager.

According to the memo, multiple bargaining sessions have occurred since then and four more are scheduled during the months of May and June.

So far, the negotiating teams have tentatively agreed to 12 “non-controversial” contract articles. More complex issues, including wages, promotions, hiring, discipline and citizen oversight, have not yet been addressed.

Andrew Romero, former vice president of the APA, told Community Impact Newspaper in February, “We’ll accept discipline, we’ll accept rules; we just want it to be fair [for officers].”

Romero resigned from his APA post earlier this month after being disciplined by the department for intoxicated conduct at a police gala in November.

Later this month, a council ordinance extending certain specialty pay—including education incentive, mental health certification and bilingual pay—for APD officers will expire.

The city offered the APA an extension of the previous contract that would have secured special pay and other provisions for an additional 12 months as negotiations continued. The APA rejected the offer.

APA President Craig Casaday told Community Impact Newspaper in January that the union did not have “the legal ability” to accept such an extension because the previous contract only allowed for extensions in 30-day increments if both parties were engaged in negotiations for a successor contract.

A city spokesperson said council may decide to extend this specialty pay provision.

During a financial forecast presented to City Council in April, the city’s deputy budget officer Ed Van Eenoo said he expects the city to save millions of dollars by operating without a labor contract with the police union.

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Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her reporting focuses include employment and economic development. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.
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