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Police union pushes for increased officers’ rights, standard transfer protocol

Monday, July 25, 2022 by Emma Freer

The Austin Police Association countered some of the city’s proposals regarding officers’ rights, discipline, assignment changes and dispute resolution during their latest negotiation session Wednesday.  

With just over two months until the current labor contract expires, the bargaining teams continue to hash out conflicting aims: increased transparency and oversight for the city, pay raises and other benefits for the police union.

APA generally argued that officers should have more rights, including representation during disciplinary reviews and more time when appealing indefinite suspensions. For instance, the union would like to be notified in writing at least 24 hours before discipline-related hearings so it can provide guidance and representation to the officer in question. 

The union also proposed amending the contract to allow officers 180 days – rather than 90-180 days – to schedule an appeal of an indefinite suspension, a change to which the city was not immediately receptive.

“I chuckled a little bit because we’ve been working on this section probably for well over a decade,” said Deven Desai, the city’s chief labor relations officer. “I think both sides are trying to see what we can do to get the hearings done sooner.”

APA also advocated for the use of mediation in resolving some complaints, standardized assignment transfer processes and more binding arbitration agreements.

Under the current contract, officers who are the subject of citizen and internal complaints of a “minor nature” – such as those related to rudeness – may opt for mediation at the time of the initial complaint.

Melanie Rodriguez, Austin Police Women’s Association president and APA board member, said making mediation available throughout the review process would allow the person who filed the complaint an opportunity to be heard and the officer involved to learn from the experience. 

The APA’s bargaining team pointed to the Kroll report, an outside review of APD policies focused on racism and discrimination, which espoused voluntary mediation in such instances.

The union also proposed amending the contract’s provisions related to assignment changes, requiring APD to enact a standard transfer process for all non-patrol sworn positions. 

“It’s up to whatever direction the wind is blowing that day, and it’s creating issues as far as equity,” Rodriguez said. 

Finally, APA pushed back on what its attorney Ron DeLord described as the city’s proposal to expand the circumstances in which the two parties can appeal arbitration agreements in court. 

“All those issues about scope and authority of oversight, they’re negotiable, clearly,” he said. “But we’re not prepared to change the rules of the game over one arbitration.” 

The bargaining teams will next meet on Aug. 4, when the city promised to counter APA’s proposal to raise wages up to 20 percent over four years. APA has indicated it will respond to the city’s proposals regarding management rights, promotions and civilian oversight of the police department.

The current contract expires on Sept. 30. Any agreement that the city and APA reach must be approved by City Council. If they do not reach an agreement by the deadline, the contract will be extended through March.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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