Thursday, February 23, 2023

Austin City Council Passes Ordinance to Provide Short-term Solution on Police Compensation and Oversight


Ordinance will maintain effective recruitment and retention efforts by ensuring base pay increases and protecting specialty pay and buy-out options.

Austin City Council unanimously approved an ordinance today that will provide a short-term solution for police compensation and oversight. The ordinance, authored by Council Member Ryan Alter and co-sponsored by Mayor Kirk Watson and Council Members Alison Alter, José Velásquez and José “Chito” Vela, fulfills several community needs and only becomes necessary if an agreement on a police contract between the City of Austin and Austin Police Association is not reached.
“With today’s ordinance, we have a short-term solution to ensure our community’s public safety needs are met and that our police officers are appropriately compensated with stable wages and benefits,” Austin Mayor Kirk Watson said. “Nobody, me included, thinks this is a perfect solution, but inaction is not an option. Our community needs to be safe and feel safe.”
Watson said he is hopeful negotiations between the City and the Austin Police Association can resume.
“I am disappointed that negotiations between the City and the Austin Police Association haven’t continued,” Watson said. “I am asking the Association to come back to the negotiating table. Let’s work together to figure this out for our police officers and the community.”
The Ordinance contains the following:

  • Financial assurances for police officers that would otherwise be in a contract in the form of base pay increases and protecting specialty pay and buyout options for officers who are retiring.
  • Supplemented recruiting and retention efforts so that current staffing levels can be increased.
  • Police oversight continued to be conducted by the City as authorized by existing state and local laws
“While the timing of the current contract’s expiration at the end of March and the upcoming May election have put City Officials and the Police Association in tough positions, I am committed to ensuring that we do what is in the best interest of this community and the officers who protect and serve it,” Council Member Ryan Alter said.
“Today’s Council action provides stable benefits and pay to our officers, while maintaining robust oversight. We cannot go backwards. In the absence of an agreement, we are sending a clear message that - no matter what - we value our officers and want them to continue to serve our communities responsibly.”
Mayor Watson’s amendment made additional provisions directing the City Manager to develop and implement a program to include the following:
  • A base pay increase for all APD officers below the rank of Assistant Chief.
  • A signing bonus for new cadets.
  • A retention strategy that incentivizes officers to extend their service.
  • A financial component for officers that incentivizes the Austin Police Association to immediately return to the negotiating table in good faith.

The Ordinance takes effect upon the expiration of the current meet and confer agreement between the City and the Austin Police Association (APA) scheduled to expire on March 31, 2023.