Under Austin’s current oversight system, the police are responsible for investigating themselves. Prop A will ensure that investigations include civilians with fact-finding ability.
Prop A will ensure any future police contract contains strong oversight provisions to hold police accountable and deter misconduct like excessive force.
Prop A will ensure that accountability and oversight are required in every police contract, bringing stability and predictability to the oversight system and focusing bargaining on pay and benefits.
Court settlements related to police misconduct cost city taxpayers almost $20 million last year and millions more just last week. Prop A will reduce those costs by ensuring there is a strong deterrence for misconduct.
Read Prop A
“An ordinance… that will strengthen the oversight of Austin police and encourage accountability for officer misconduct and brutality.”
Prop A makes the following improvements to today’s Office of Police Oversight
Austin successfully created a stronger system of civilian oversight for police in 2017. That system was torpedoed by grievances filed by the Police Association leading to a 2021 arbitration decision that curtailed its powers to review, investigate and classify credible complaints. Today, the Office of Police Oversight is little more than an intake window for complaints.
In 2022, more than 33,000 people signed a petition to address this and re-empower Austin’s system of civilian oversight. That measure will be on the May 2023 ballot as Prop A. How does it work? It improves the City Ordinance establishing civilian oversight, and “raises the floor” for any police contract. A new police contract cannot be brought to Council for a vote if it does not meet the minimum requirements to fulfill the Act.
- Gives oversight staff direct and unfettered access to facts about incidents including body camera footage, police reports, witness statements.
- Authorizes oversight staff to participate in the entire complaint process, from classification (which determines whether it will be investigated) to completion, and make a recommendation to the Chief about discipline.
- Authorizes oversight staff to ask questions of witnesses.
- Authorizes the oversight office to maintain additional records for public access including an archive of civil suits and outcomes, complaint outcomes and the Director’s recommendations.
- Authorizes the oversight office to conduct audits of body camera video. When Austin contracted for such an audit in 2020, consultants found more than a 100 problem cases involving excessive force, false criminal charges and more. That audit has never been replicated and no officers were disciplined over the cases found by the consultants.
- Authorizes the office to maintain force incident data and conduct regular audits and studies of that data.
- No police contract can be signed by City Council if it undermines these powers and authorities.
Prop A makes the following improvements to today’s Civilian Review Panel
- Expands its jurisdiction to include review of complaints involving arrest or detention on false charges and discriminatory acts.
- Allows its members to use secure digital systems to view information related to its cases remotely rather than having to go to a physical location and look at paper files.
- Eliminates the current rule prohibiting anyone with a felony in their past from ever serving on the panel. Qualified people who want to serve in this volunteer position should not be barred solely because of a past conviction.