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Police to seek more resources during contract talks with city

Friday, April 4, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Representatives of the Austin Police Association (APA) met with the city’s negotiating team to begin new contract talks on Thursday. The meet-and-confer process is likely to take several months, but both sides hope to reach a new five-year agreement by the time the current contract expires in September. The City Council will have to approve a budget for the upcoming fiscal year at the same—while projecting public safety expenditures for the whole contract period.


While the talks are only in their initial phase, Assistant City Manager Michael McDonald said he anticipated the city would be focused on preserving gains made in previous contracts. “This is our fourth contract, so a lot of the major issues we’ve been looking for in years past such as citizen oversight, adjustment to the promotional process… we’ve accomplished those,” he said. Major changes, such as granting subpoena power to the Office of the Police Monitor as recommended by the recent public safety audit, will likely not be the city’s focus.


“No, we don’t plan to discuss subpoena power,” McDonald said. “Again, a lot of what we needed to accomplish has already been accomplished.” Representatives from the Police Monitor are allowed to observe interviews by Internal Affairs detectives investigating complaints against officers, McDonald said, “there’s even allowances there where the monitor’s office can work with Internal Affairs to make sure that important questions they feel should be addressed can be asked by Internal Affairs.”


Union representatives indicated they would be focused on additional resources. “Resources are always where it’s at, and that’s something that we’ve always asked for and I think the city recognizes that,” said APA Vice President Wuthipong Tantaksinanukij. “We could always use more officers and more resources out here on the streets. We’re serving a daily population that comes into Austin of over one million.”


McDonald did not immediately rule out additional funding for police, but said the city would be focused on containing costs. “These sessions are not all about cost,” he said. “There are a lot of discussions about workplace environment, what we can do along the lines of safety, different process improvements. But certainly we’re going to have to keep a mindful eye to what’s taking place here with the economy and be more conservative than we’ve been in years past.”


The two sides expect to meet about twice each week, and some of those discussions will be open to the public. “This is an historic moment for us to have an open process,” said Tantaksinanukij. “We believe in open government.”

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