Under the proposal, Austin cops would agree to expanded powers for the police monitor’s office and the Citizen Review Panel. A police watchdog group criticized the deal, saying contracts should not leverage accountability in exchange for money.
Austin police officers would get a 9.5 percent raise over five years under a proposed new contract in exchange for greater transparency and accountability, reports the city’s American-Statesman. Among other things, the contract would expand the deadlines for investigations of police misconduct and broaden the scope and power of the police monitor’s office and the Citizen Review Panel. Chas Moore, co-founder of watchdog group the Austin Justice Coalition, criticized the proposal, which he said leveraged accountability in exchange for more money. The police union defended the deal, citing the rising cost of living in Austin.
The City Council and police union must vote to approve the contract. “We have people testifying, saying, ‘Our kids want pools and parks. We want sidewalks. We want lights. We want better transit,’” Moore said. “But we don’t have the money, because we keep putting money into the Police Department.” Thirty-nine percent of the city’s general fund goes to the Austin Police Department. Under the current contract, new officers are paid a starting salary of $58,681 a year. By comparison, Dallas Police Department academy graduates have a starting salary of $49,207. The Houston Police Department’s starting salary is $49,917, and the San Antonio Police Department’s starting salary is $47,138.