APA Feels Kneed to Respond

Last Friday at high noon, APD Chief Stan Knee received a hand-delivered letter from the Austin Police Association condemning his recent decision to reassign APA President Mike Sheffield off full-time union duty and into a part-time assignment in the Sexual Offender Apprehension and Registration Unit. The shift means Sheffield is now splitting time between SOAR duties and union duties. While the department has declined to comment on the reason for the transfer, a notice on the APA's Web site reported that the administration transferred Sheffield in response to manpower shortages. But the APA board isn't buying it; Sheffield's reassignment, they charge, smacks of retaliation.

"After much soul searching and discussion, we believe we are due an explanation of your recent removal of our President from union leave to return him to police duties," reads the letter, delivered by Charlie Wilkinson, political director for the Combined Law Enforcement Agencies of Texas (CLEAT). "The Board unanimously believes that your action was retaliatory in nature."

Over the last month Sheffield has been particularly outspoken regarding possible administrative problems within the department. Notably, he asked Knee to conduct a thorough administrative review of the allegations of department corruption related to the mid-1990's joint federal narcotics investigation, Mala Sangre. And just three weeks ago, Sheffield asserted that Knee should have to take the stand in the Snyder case to answer questions about the APD's allegedly disparate disciplinary practices.

"It is our perception that our president's specific request for a fair and independent investigation into Mala Sangre must have been the action that spurred you to reassign him," the letter charges. And they aren't buying the department's "manpower shortage" explanation, either. "Your explanation that Det. Sheffield was needed because of a severe manpower shortage rings hollow. If you did not activate Det. Sheffield immediately following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when every uniform was needed, then it is doubtful that such an emergency exists at all."

Union members fought to have the full-time prez position incorporated into the last police contract, they argue, so a union representative would be available at all times to defend the rank and file. Accordingly, they believe the reassignment is nothing more than retaliation and a move "secretly intended to bust the union."

The APA board met with Chief Knee for two hours Tuesday to discuss Sheffield's new job arrangement. The two parties are "exploring other options," Sheffield said.

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