Bellaire - Meyerland - West University | Nov. 2020

Rules to revise?

worth trying at every one.” Although Turner received the union’s backing in both of his election bids, he said he is willing to consider any recommendation and suggested he is anticipating pushback. “I don’t rule anything out, and I envi- sion that there will be some very heart- felt conversations,” Turner said. “We are certainly taking the recommenda- tions of the task force very seriously, and I look forward to having those conversations.” Some advocates are unsure whether the talks will result in change. If Turner and HPOU President Joe Gamaldi do not agree and receive a vote of approval from HPOU members and City Council by Dec. 31, the contract automatically renews as is with a 2% raise for officers. Turner had the ability to cancel the contract entirely by Oct. 2 but did not. “It gives [HPOU] an incredible amount of leverage,” Harris said. Alternatively, the contract does not prevent talks from happening after Dec. 31, and Turner’s $20 million police budget increase in June could give him leverage, said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the Uni- versity of Houston.

The ACLU and mayor’s task force reports also call for changes to the state local government code allowing union contracts to include the 48-hour and 180-day rules, proposals HPOU leader- ship indicated they will lobby against. “We are preparing for the upcoming battle here and in Austin beginning in January,” Griffith wrote. “One that will be hard fought and will cost a ton of money.” Rottinghaus said the contract nego- tiations may be a more straightforward way to create change than through the longer, more politically complex legis- lation process. “The legislative process is fraught with complications, which might amend it in ways that are not approved of, or it might alter the time frame, or it simply may not see the light of day,” Rottinghaus said. Unlike state legislation, contract negotiations could lead to cities invest- ing more funding into police pay and benefits in exchange for accountability measures, which gives advocates such

as Harris pause. Predicting the outcome of the nego- tiations is more difficult in Houston than in Austin, Harris said, because Austin’s are held in an open meeting format, giving residents an opportunity to understand what motivations and leverage each participant has. Advocates in Houston have requested a similar format, but Turner has not indicated he plans to change the closed-door nature of the talks. “The last police contract...was approved by City Council in 4 minutes and 44 seconds,” Hudson said. “We need more transparency.” Regardless of the outcome, increased attention on criminal justice reform may be shaping future contracts already, Rottinghaus said. “The city and the county are moving more progressivelyDemocratic, and it’s gettingharder tofindcommonground,” he said. “This is the last chance to have a smooth process in these negotiations when criminal justice reform may be higher up on a new, more progressive mayor’s agenda.”

The 48-hour rule Allows officers to review evidence against them in a misconduct allegation before making a statement The reform task force looked at two rules governing misconduct.

“The mayor hasn’t been overly aggressive in pushing for police reform, so that may allow formorewiggle room in negotiating a contract,” Rottinghaus said. “He is on his second term and wanting to make progress on big issues such as criminal justice reform, so this also forces his hand to be able to move on this issue.” Other avenues for change If the union contract remains largely untouched, disciplinary measures could still face scrutiny when the Texas Legislature reconvenes in January. SOURCES: HOUSTON POLICE OFFICERS UNION, MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER’S TASK FORCE ON POLICING REFORM/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER The 180-day rule Prevents HPD from disciplining officers more than 6 months after misconduct

Dec. 31 The three-year police contract expires.

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