AUSTIN, Texas - The Austin Police Association has elected a new president, Michael Bullock.
He says his priorities include teaching Austinites about what officers go through and being back under contract.
"If you look back to 2017 when we started first dealing with contract issues, when the contract got voted down, ever since then, we've incurred problem after problem where we've struggled to recruit, to retain," he said.
Contract negotiations are at a standstill after the last one expired earlier this year. The City Council declined to vote on a potential four-year agreement.
When a new deal could come is still a question.
"What does the timeline look like? I don't know. There are plenty of conversations that are coming. We're here to work with anyone that's willing to work with us," Bullock said.
He says a contract would help with recruitment and retention.
"We still want to be treated fairly. Officers feel targeted. They're tired. It's a demoralized department with all the issues that we're dealing with right now. Staffing is a big part of that," he said.
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Bullock says they're supposed to have more than 2,000 officers on the streets, but right now they don't even have 1,500.
"We have detectives that should be working violent crime cases, that should be working on aggravated assaults, robberies, homicides, burglaries, and they have to work backfill because patrol is overwhelmed, and officers are tired, and they're not getting a break," he said.
He says getting staff numbers up would help with response times.
"The damage that has been done over the last six years is probably going to take us over a decade to recover from. It's a long road ahead. The longer we wait, and we stay on this path, the more harm is going to come to Austinites, right? They're the ones that ultimately suffer from all of this," he said.
The union's new board of directors goes into effect on Jan. 1.