AUSTIN, Texas - President of the Austin Police Association Ken Casaday said he’s ready to go back to the negotiating table with City Council.
Council members unanimously rejected a re-write of APA's "meet and confer" agreement back in December.
Since then, the police department has been operating under "civil service law" affecting things like officer pay and accountability. For example, a citizen panel that oversees the Austin Police Department's conduct was suspended.
Casaday said he is optimistic about the negotiations, but there are still several unknowns. For instance, Casaday has yet to meet new city manager Spencer Cronk.
Still, the association hopes they can find common ground with City Council, especially for the officers that have taken a big hit financially.
“There are officers in our department, actually several of them, that have lost $1,000 per month. That's a lot for a brand new police officer and their families,” said Casaday.
Without the contract, specialty pay went out the window. Officers with added compensation for special skills or overnight shifts no longer saw that money on their paychecks. So Casaday said it’s good news to hear the officers that have lost that pay may soon get a temporary fix from City Council.
“This came on top of the vehicle issue that we had where we lost our entire fleet. People are doubled up, there's not as much coverage, the community is not getting the coverage that they should have and that on top of the contract not going forward, so I'd say morale is pretty low,” Casaday said.
Now, with negotiations back on the table, instead of reinstating the panel, community advocacy groups are suggesting a different approach.
During Monday’s Public Safety Commission meeting, community advocacy group leaders proposed starting a nonprofit to help the public file complaints against officers.
The nonprofit would be completely independent of the City and not dependent on contract negotiations.
“The biggest thing for me is we create this thing that the community feels that they can actually go to and vent and file a complaint process because it's driven by the community. I think that's the most important part. With the CRP, which was filled with awesome people, their hands were tied because of contract negotiations,” said Chas Moore with the Austin Justice Coalition.
Community activists said if the nonprofit is put in place it would probably take a year to construct.
Casaday said APA will discuss the idea, but officers need more information before voicing an opinion.
“We've always been very open in negotiations to talking about everything no matter how smart it is or how screwy it might sound,” said Casaday.
APA expects to start negotiations with the City in either late February or early April.