Austin voters to decide extent of police department oversight
AUSTIN, Texas - Austin voters have two propositions to look at in the May election. Both propositions add enhanced police department oversight, but to different extents.
Prop A is supported by Equity Action, which says the passage will give more access to the Office of Police Oversight (OPO).
"Police oversight is about ensuring that when an incident happens with an officer, that somebody independent of the police department has an eye on the investigation from beginning to end and then is able to make recommendations to the chief," said Kathy Mitchell with Equity Action.
Prop B is backed by Voters for Oversight and Austin Police Association, which claim the proposition would strengthen the city’s system of independent and transparent civilian police oversight.
"With a more concise set of directions authorities of what the civilian oversight panel would be allowed to do," said Kevin Lawrence with the Texas Municipal Police Association. "It would be more in line with current state law and the current contract."
While both petitions have similar language on the role of Office of Police Oversight, Prop A gives more power to OPO.
"The agency staff would review the body camera footage, look at the 9-1-1 call audio, kind of affirm that the thing the person reported, in fact, occurred," said Mitchell.
FOX 7 Austin reached out to Kevin Lawrence with the Texas Municipal Police Association on these propositions and asked is he believes too much oversight could be an issue.
"There's not enough oversight," Lawrence said. "It's an overreach. It's an overreach because it would give those individuals access to things, they shouldn't have access to and the ability then to disclose things that don't need to be made public to the parties to the point that they're going to be damaging for the police department."
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Kathy Mitchell with Equity Action said Prop A is safer option for Austin residents.
"I believe that what we're saying is that police conduct that needs to be investigated can happen to anyone," said Mitchell.