Naked City

APD Muzzling Union?

Last week the city subpoenaed the managing editor of the Austin Police Association's newsletter, in a move the union condemns as antithetical to freedom of speech and an attempt to silence the APA. According to an APA press release, Shelly Wilkison received word that she must testify during the upcoming arbitration hearing of former APD officer Tim Enlow, suspended indefinitely last August for what APD Chief Stan Knee termed "racial profiling." With Wilkison now directly involved in the court proceedings, she will be unable to cover them for the APA's newsletter, The Police Line.

"The First Amendment says the government cannot tell the free press of this country what they will cover, when they will cover it, or how they will cover it," APA President Mike Sheffield said. "Frankly, I'm stunned at how far this administration has gone in an attempt to muzzle the voice of the union." In June, Knee removed Sheffield from full-time union duty -- a position the union won during the last round of contract negotiations with the city -- and put him onto half-time police duty registering sex offenders. In the weeks prior to his surprise reassignment, Sheffield had asked APD administration to examine ongoing allegations of police corruption. He had also asserted that Knee should be called to testify at the trial of former officer Eric Snyder, who alleges that APD engages in disparate disciplinary practices. Not long after getting an angry letter from the APA, Knee moved Sheffield back onto full-time union duty. The Wilkison subpoena represents another attempt to smack the outspoken union, Sheffield asserts: "No administration should dictate to any union what it will or won't print in a union publication."

Wilkison is not the only reporter to interview Enlow, but she was the first to speak to him after his suspension. Despite her coverage of other disciplinary conflicts within the APD, she told the Chronicle, this is the first subpoena. "This is all new for me," she said. "Clearly the police administration doesn't want me to cover this hearing." APD officers have come to rely on The Police Line as their primary source of union news and information, she says. "All I want is to continue covering a story I began covering a year ago."

Even if WIlkison is called to testify, it is unclear exactly what information she could offer. Meanwhile, she's exploring her legal options. APD officials declined to comment, and Assistant City Attorney Mike Cronig, who is handling the arbitration, said he had "no ill motive" in subpoenaing Wilkison.

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