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Council discusses police accountability, union contract

Wednesday, May 23, 2018 by Jack Craver

Austin police officers have now been working without a union contract for nearly six months, ever since City Council declined to approve a new contract in December over concerns that it did not include strong enough accountability measures for police misconduct. In the meantime, Council is trying to figure out what kind of accountability system it would like to propose in future contract negotiations. In a presentation to Council on Tuesday, interim police monitor Farah Muscadin highlighted various models that exist around the country. San Francisco and Washington, D.C., for instance, have civilian review agencies that investigate complaints against police officers and the police department. That contrasts with the model that exists in many other cities, including Austin, where a review board or monitor relies on the investigation done by the police department’s own internal affairs staff. Muscadin said that she plans to come back to Council next month with a preliminary report on establishing a new system, but that a final recommendation (based on input from various stakeholders) will not be ready until October. Council Member Delia Garza said the city needs to get a police contract approved as soon as possible, noting that without a contract, the Police Department is hiring based on a state test that consists of 100 written questions. That’s “not the best way to determine who are our police officers,” she said. Council Member Jimmy Flannigan said that he was open to approving an interim contract but that the police union rejected it. Council Member Pio Renteria blamed the bombings in March as distracting the city and department from contract negotiations.

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