Ahead of Police Association vote, Austin Justice Coalition shows support for contract

Last December, the Austin City Council rejected the Austin Police Association's $82 million "Meet and Confer" contract due in part to council members' concerns it was way too expensive.

After an emotional year without a contract, last week the union reached a tentative agreement with the city. The price tag now is at nearly half of what it was last year: $44.6 million.  

Read Austin Police Association, City of Austin reach tentative contract deal

Officers get a 1% pay raise the first year of the contract, 2% for years 2,3 and 4. 

Chas Moore, Executive Director of the Austin Justice Coalition says last year the group started a campaign making sure Austinites really understood what a labor contract with the City really means.

"A lot of stuff that people were protesting for, anti-police brutality, more transparency, that's where a lot of that stuff was hidden," Moore said.

Moore says this negotiation process, the Justice Coalition has been a part of the conversation.

"Instead of just trying to put us in the shadows, it actually afforded us a seat at the table with them so they could actually understand why we wanted some of the things we wanted like why we wanted an independent oversight body, why we wanted more transparency," Moore said.  

And the resulting contract in Moore's eyes is "leaps and bounds" better.  Council is also set to vote on an ordinance establishing an "Office of Police Oversight" that will replace the Police Monitor along with the City's acceptance of non-sworn complaints.

"The fact that people had to go down to the police department, put their hand on a stack of Bibles and swear to whomever that these things were factually true was something that was very intimidating.  The fact that now you can do an anonymous complaint and do an online complaint is a big deal,” Moore said. Moore points out everybody may not be happy with the agreement but it's a good middle ground. So he supports it.

But what if the union doesn't?

Read APA President Ken Casaday takes Council to task over Union contract

"If we come down and have a rare 'Kumbaya' moment where we all agree to be content in the moment or the union ultimately fails it and we just, we keep moving right?  The sky didn't fall when we didn't have a contract," Moore said.

The Justice Coalition is hoping for some amendments to the proposed Office of Police Oversight, like making sure they have clear rules of operation if the city finds itself without a police contract again. Also body-cam videos should be released publicly as quickly as possible.