Negotiations Continue on New Contract Between the City and Police Union
Slow progress at the bargaining table
The Austin Police Association continues its meet-and-confer negotiations with the city under considerably less scrutiny than their counterparts in the Firefighters Association, which has bargained while City Council rages about its skyrocketing overtime and other budget concerns ("Stoking the Flames," Sept. 1). But that doesn't mean the APA and city negotiators are likely to reach a deal anytime soon. In fact, at their Aug. 24 bargaining session, APA representatives said that because its negotiator is going on vacation this month, it would ask the city for an extension in the talks, and the city indicated it would be agreeable to such a request; that's being discussed as we go to press Wednesday.
Hurricane Harvey temporarily slowed the process last week; the Aug. 29 meeting was rescheduled due to operational demands. When they've been able to meet, the two sides have primarily sparred on wages, promotions, and discipline. On Aug. 24, the union asked the city to take into consideration the rising cost of living in Austin. The city responded by noting that many of the department's officers live in surrounding jurisdictions, but APA negotiators insist the entire region has seen a cost of living jump – not just Austin. Furthermore, APA President Ken Casaday said that APD cops have more responsibilities than other departments, are subject to transparency measures, and work with inadequate staffing levels. "I think we deserve the pay raise for these reasons," he said. "I don't care about Dallas. I don't care about Fort Worth. I don't care about San Jose. Our responsibilities here are much more than those cities -- just in the oversight arena."
On Aug. 31, the city made a bit of a concession regarding promotions, putting forward a new proposal that would change the number of years candidates must work before qualifying for a promotion.
The discipline issue is rooted around the 180-day statute that governs whether an incident of misconduct can be investigated; one question continues to be whether the rule would go into effect immediately after an incident, or after the first day of arbitration. The oversight elements of the contract have been on hold until Wednesday, when interim Police Monitor Deven Desai returned to discuss that portion. Meanwhile, a coalition of criminal justice activists, including those from the Austin Justice Coalition and Grassroots Leadership, continue to advocate for scrapping the entire contract, which they say has led to a situation where the two sides too rigidly adhere to what they see as the incredibly flawed original contract language. But more on that next week.