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Council approves labor contract with police after a year without one

Friday, November 16, 2018 by Andrew Weber, KUT

Officers with the Austin Police Department are getting a new labor contract.

After nearly a year of negotiations, City Council members unanimously approved a four-year and $44.6 million contract between the city and the local police union. Police reform activists celebrated the contract as a step toward more transparency – including the ability to file complaints online and anonymously.

“I think the product we have today is Austin at its best,” said Mayor Steve Adler.

Council Member Jimmy Flannigan called it “the most forward-thinking contract in the nation.”

The agreement sets out the pay for officers over the next four years. A 1 percent pay raise will go into effect next year, and then tick up by 2 percent every year after that. The department can also now hire officers based on more than simply a written exam – including an oral interview.

“I’m hard on the police department here and that’s only because I want them to be the best,” said Chris Harris, a data analyst with Grassroots Leadership who was part of a group of activists who sat down with police during negotiations. “We don’t have the perfect police department, but I think we damn sure have the best in the state of Texas.”

Council members last year rejected a new police contract for the first time in the city’s history. The rejection came after hours of testimony from activists calling for greater transparency and oversight ability.

Council members also created the Office of Police Oversight, which will replace the Office of the Police Monitor. The office can issue disciplinary recommendations – and when the chief disagrees with them, he must respond publicly.

The police union overwhelmingly supported the new contract, with nearly 80 percent of members voting in support this morning.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT. This story has been updated with information on the City Council’s vote.

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