The Austin city council is set to vote on a new labor contract with the police department next week. Should it not go through, APD Interim Chief Brian Manley says the result will be a major loss in transparency and possibly, dozens of officers.
Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday is four months away from qualifying to retire. He's banked 2,300 hours of sick time. That's about 230 days of not calling in.
It's a standard trait among officers
"They don't feel good about being home sick. Leaving their buddies short on the street,” said Casaday.
There is an incentive for that work ethic. Unused sick time rolls over and upon retirement officers will be paid up to 1700 hours. The benefit is unique and used as a recruiting tool.
"That is the thing that separates Austin PD from all other agencies in the State of Texas is the professional pay,” said Casaday.
It is built into the labor contract. Council will vote whether to approve a new contract next week. If it is denied. Police will go back to operating under civil service law. The highest sick time pay out would be 720 hours. That's a loss of tens of thousands of dollars.
Casaday says some retire-ready officers will walk.
"Our best estimation is we'd lose between 50 and 100 [officers],” said Casaday. "These are experts. One is an expert in family violence, strangulation cases. I know for sure she will lose immediately if we don't get a contract done."
"I'll find ways around that. It will not be ideal,” said APD Interim Chief Brian Manley.
Interim Chief Brian Manley says without a contract the public stands to lose much more.
"My bigger concern and I think the greater impact to the community if this contract were not to be passed is what it will do to our ability to meet this community's expectations in being transparent, to being accountable,” he said.
Manley says without a contract the citizen appointed panel that reviews critical incidents will no longer have access to internal affairs reviews.
In fact, the new, proposed contract gives the citizen review panel more power. They would be able to directly contact the chief making requests to policy or procedural changes. Requests and Manley's response would be public.
The new contract also allows citizens to make anonymous complaints against officers instead of having to come in and make a statement.
"I think that's one of the most important parts of an effective discipline and oversight system is access to the system,” said Manley.
District six Council Member Jimmy Flannigan says fiscal issues are his hang up. The department has asked for a 1.9 percent raise every year over the next five years.
"I'm concerned about the high level of pay when we're trying to hire officers to accommodate our growing city. There are also transparency and oversight issues and those are important to discuss as well,” said Flannigan.
Flannigan is looking forward to debating those concerns next week.
The former contract expired in October. The department is operating under an extension. Casaday says he will not agree to another extension