police reform police brutality

A meeting on Wednesday in Austin was a fight for police reform. Now, what’s next?

Austin, home to the Austin Police Department and numerous documented instances of police brutality, took a significant step forward on Wednesday. Hours after citizens and activists made impassioned pleas in front of the city council; the council decided to vote against a police contract that would have awarded the Austin Police Department $80 million.

The contract oversees pay, discipline, and oversight of officers and is negotiated once every few years. Wednesday’s vote was the first time that a deal had ever been rejected in the two decades since it became a requirement by city law.

Watchdogs believed that the contract would further establish an environment where misconduct by officers would go unpunished, and any oversite would go unheard.

“We can’t let the police police themselves.”

“We can’t let the police police themselves. They’ve got a full-time job keeping me safe and I respect them for that, and I support them for that,” Reggie James, director of the Lone Star Sierra club told KUT. “But they have a culture. And they have a culture of protecting themselves.”

The move puts everyone back to the drawing board in regards to drawing up a new collective bargaining agreement. Austin’s mayor, Steve Adler, stated that the more than 200 citizens who spoke at Wednesday’s night meeting were evidence that the proposed contract “isn’t ready” to be agreed to by the council.

Following the 2015 wrongful arrest of 26-year-old Breaion King, many were upset to learn that former Austin and now Houston police chief Art Acevedo couldn’t discipline the officer because the city of Austin had a 180-day rule in regards to internal investigations of police misconduct. Acevedo didn’t learn of the arrest until last year. King’s charges were dropped and the officer in question was disciplined with counseling and additional training in the matter.

For Austin, it’s a sign that one of the state’s more segregated cities is open to police reform and larger oversite. The contract will become an issue again when it is up for a vote a second time next year.

Activists want Austin’s police monitoring to be similar to that of San Francisco and Chicago, with independent investigators as well as citizens operating as an oversight committee.

Image via Films For Action