North Central Austin Edition | March 2023



2023 FEB. 3

POLICE CONTRACT AND BALLOT MEASURES Negotiations for a new Austin Police Department contract began in February 2022. Since then, two police oversight measures have been placed on the May election ballot.

The city of Austin and Austin Police Association begin negotiations on a new four-year contract with the police department (APD). FEB. 11

Equity Action’s “Austin Police Oversight Act” petition is validated by the city. SEPT. 7

The VOPA “Austin Police Oversight Act” petition is validated by the city.

Austin Police Association: labor union focused on the pay, benets and working conditions of the APD

APD: the principal law enforcement agency in Austin

Equity Action: a criminal justice-focused political group behind Proposition A


Voters can pass or reject either Proposition A or Proposition B, or both, in May. How voters choose these propositions will aect how oversight is implemented and negotiations for a one- or four-year contract. How your vote matters

the city and the Austin Police Association. The contract includes agreements regarding ocer pay and benets as well as the city’s oversight system of police misconduct. It is set to expire March 31, after press time. As of March 20, no nego- tations were scheduled. Equity Action, a criminal justice political group behind Proposition A, began canvass- ing for signatures last summer on an oversight ordinance that would avoid self-regula- tion of the police department, provide discipline for proven misconduct and make records of misconduct publicly avail- able, according to Kathy Mitchell of Equity Action. The ordinance would prevent a new contract from undermin- ing oversight, Mitchell said. “City taxpayers have paid more than $30 million to cover settlements from law- suits brought by residents who were injured or those whose loved ones were killed by police ocers,” District 9 City Council Member Zohaib Qadri said. “We literally can- not aord to maintain the sta- tus quo.”

Four months after Equity Action’s measure was placed on the ballot, the city vali- dated another petition with the same title, brought by political committee Vot- ers for Oversight and Police Accountability, or VOPA. The Austin Police Association nancially supported VOPA with $287,030, according to campaign nance reports. The measure, labeled as Prop. B on the ballot, uses much of the same language as Prop A, but removes cer- tain provisions. Prop. B aims to bring trans- parency to the Austin Police Department and comply with all state and federal laws to give both community mem- bers and police a say in the disciplinary process of o- cers, according to VOPA’s website. Multiple attempts to con- tact ocials with VOPA, including campaign treasurer James Wood, or APA in regard to VOPA received no response as of press time. Conicting ballot measures Equity Action's ordinance received 20,451 validated

signatures. The city requires a petition to receive 20,000 signatures to be placed on the ballot. The ordinance seeks to provide the Oce of Police Oversight with the ability to participate in investigations of ocer conduct and access documentation, such as body camera footage and emergency call audio. Currently, the city’s Oce of Police Oversight receives com- plaints regarding misconduct, but APD’s internal aairs inves- tigates the claims. “It improves on what we have by establishing indepen- dent nding authority and establishing specic report- ing at the end of the process,” Mitchell said. “[Prop.] B does none of those things and takes a step backward from where we are now.” Prop. B, which received more than 22,000 validated signa- tures, emphasizes the Oce of Police Oversight would only have access to records in the department in accordance with state and federal law. The oce would not participate in investigations under VOPA’s measure or conduct random assessments. Additionally,

If Prop. A passes

If Prop. B passes

Provisions can immediately be implemented, including OPO access to public records and the removal of the existing anonymous complaint system. Any future police contracts would have to fulll provisions in the act.

Within 10 days, the city will identify which provisions may be implemented, including for the Oce of Police Oversight to assist in investigating complaints of misconduct. Some items may conict with state law and take more time for consideration.

If both Prop A and Prop B pass

Only provisions in agreement will be implemented.

If neither Prop. A nor Prop. B pass

The current city and civilian oversight systems will remain in place unless potentially renegotiated in a future contract.

Did you know? A stopgap ordinance passed Feb. 23 would protect ocers’ benets, promote recruiting, prevent retirements and ensure oversight.


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