Naked City

Signs of Calm in APD Crisis

Ministers from the Baptist Ministers Union of Austin and members of their congregations marched from Austin Police Headquarters to City Hall in protest of the recent actions of the APD.
Ministers from the Baptist Ministers Union of Austin and members of their congregations marched from Austin Police Headquarters to City Hall in protest of the recent actions of the APD. (Photo By Jana Birchum)

As the community crisis surrounding the Austin Police Department continues, this week saw some signs of cooling off – but also more expressions of dissatisfaction and outrage. The latest:

The Austin Police Association and city officials are, officially, heading back to the bargaining table this week – likely tomorrow – to resume contract negotiations. A joint press release issued late on Feb. 20 explains that city officials and members of the APA had a meeting that day "in which both sides freely expressed their concerns."

Presumably, they're referring to concerns that led to the nasty blowout earlier this month, when the union walked away from talks after Austin Police Chief Stan Knee handed Officer Scott Glasgow a 90-day suspension as discipline for, Knee said, Glasgow's violating two policies during his fatal June 14 encounter with Jessie Lee Owens. Union officials said they were upset that the suspension was politically motivated and proved that the chief and city leaders were weak-willed and would not stand by Austin's officers.

The reconciliation came just three days before a memorandum of understanding, which extended the union's previous "meet and confer" labor contract, was set to expire. Union spokeswoman Lt. Kim Nobles said the APA has signed a final 30-day contract extension, through March 23, in order to give the two sides enough time to work out the final provisions of a new contract. Nobles said the tone of the Friday meeting assuaged the union's concerns. "We feel pretty positive that there is good faith," she said. "We all want what's best for everyone, and we all want to come away winners, and we especially want the community to be a winner. That is our primary focus."

Meanwhile, the family of Sophia King, who was killed June 11, 2002, by APD Officer John Coffey, on Feb. 23 withdrew the wrongful death suit they filed against the city of Austin and Coffey in the wake of her shooting. According to the family's attorney Jim Harrington, executive director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, the family "non-suited" their cause of action for "tactical" reasons. However, Harrington wrote in a press release that the withdrawal does not mean the suit will not be refiled some time before the second anniversary of King's death. Instead, he wrote, the potentially temporary withdrawal "allows all the parties a period of quiet in which to try to resolve the issues at stake without the pressure of pressing court deadlines." The move comes just over a week after the APD – finally – released the complete report of its homicide investigation into King's death (see After 18 Months, APD Releases Report on King Shooting, Feb. 20).

On Feb. 21, nearly 300 people joined the Baptist Ministers Union march from APD Headquarters to City Hall to call attention to concerns that African-Americans in Austin are discriminated against by police and city leaders and have unequal access to economic and educational opportunities. The BMU compiled a list of community concerns – from surveys collected at area churches – and a list of demands and recommendations. The concerns included claims that Austin police "don't care enough" about East Austin communities, that too many "inexperienced" officers are assigned to patrol east of I-35, that Austin's black "contractors and professionals" don't get their "fair share" of city contracts, and that gentrification in East Austin is displacing portions of the community. The union is demanding that city leaders address these concerns and are calling for an "immediate end to APD's use of unnecessary force and racial profiling" and a stronger civilian oversight system, with a citizen review panel that reports directly to city officials, has the power to subpoena witnesses and documents, and is authorized to mete out discipline for errant officers.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond

    Naked City

    The feds punish transit authorities for carrying drug-reform ads

    Naked City

    The governor's political, not personal, sleeping arrangements deserve exposure

    Naked City

    Subpoenas issued for Craddick's records in spiraling campaign-cash probe
  • Naked City

    The SOS Alliance stops work -- barely -- on a controversial big-box project

    Naked City

    The union gathers signatures to put collective bargaining on the May ballot

    Naked City

    Half a million expected at D.C. march in April

    Naked City

    Doggett's the only winner on the League of Conservation Voters scorecard

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More APD
APD Racial Bias Controversy Now Includes Lawsuit
APD Racial Bias Controversy Now Includes Lawsuit
Suit alleges “a pattern and practice of discriminating against African Americans”

Austin Sanders, Nov. 29, 2019

APD's Lone Female Assistant Chief Retires
APD's Lone Female Assistant Chief Retires
Jessica Robledo was the only woman at the executive level during her tenure

Chase Hoffberger, Sept. 2, 2016

More by Jordan Smith
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
Motoreum's Yusuf & Antonio talk about the biz and their reality TV debut

May 22, 2014

Eighth Inmate of the Year Set to Die
Eighth Inmate of the Year Set to Die
Eighth inmate of the year set to die

May 9, 2014


APD, Austin Police Association, APA, meet and confer, Kim Nobles, Baptist Ministers Union, BMU, Austin Police Department, Sophia King, John Coffey, Jim Harrington

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle