Of the two proposals, Prop A contained more measures, specifically targeting discrimination and giving more power to the Police Supervision Bureau.
AUSTIN, Texas – Proposition A, an ordinance designed to increase police oversight and “encourage accountability,” passed sensationally in Saturday night’s election.
Proposition A was often mentioned in conjunction with Proposition B, a similar ordinance requiring enhanced oversight more generally.
Prop A was put on the ballot as a result of an effort by Equity Action, a criminal justice reform group. Prop B came on the ballot of Voters for Oversight and Police Accountability, a political action committee almost entirely funded by the Austin Police Association.
The only difference between the two was the focus of the ordinances. Prop A aimed to “discourage police misconduct and brutality” by strengthening police oversight of the city. Prop B more generally only sought to strengthen police oversight.
Unlike Proposal A, Proposal B fell short of its commitment on Saturday night.
Austin Mayor Kirk Watson released a statement regarding Saturday night’s results:
“Austin City Council did not adopt the four-year police contract in February primarily because we wanted to protect voters’ right to be heard under police scrutiny. With Proposition A approved, my hope is that we can now return back to work negotiating a new four-year contract with the Police Association with the goal of bringing some stability to the severely understaffed and overworked Austin Police Department.
That said, this already complex situation has been further complicated by two factors: pending legislation at the Texas Capitol that would impact newly approved provisions by voters; and a provision in Prop. A which, ironically, could cause the people of Austin to have less control over their police department than we did under the expired contract and less than if we had adopted the four-year contract, if the union does not accept certain provisions of Prop. A.
As I mentioned earlier, this heartfelt conversation about public safety and policing in our community has raised many challenging questions and not easy answers at all. But we will keep talking in hopes of finding some common sense solutions that serve our entire community. That includes the kind of actions we’ve already taken, like protecting officer salaries and retirement, and creating incentives for recruitment and retention.”
Equity Action, the group that backed Prop A, claimed victory Saturday when it became indirectly clear that Austin voters overwhelmingly favored Prop A over Prop B.
The voting language for both props — which would handle how the city moves forward with police misconduct — was very similar, though it differed in other ways.
Proposal A provides for a higher civilian contribution to police oversight, while Proposal B was less robust.
Members of the criminal justice reform group gathered at Luster Pearl East in East Austin as the poll numbers rolled in.
Equity Action Board Chairman Chris Harris mentioned that this fight for the city began with the first police union contract and overtime, along with his group members, decided it was time to bring it to the voters.
“This is the one thing on the ballot for nearly everyone in the city, and we look forward to the City of Austin implementing Prop A as much as possible, as quickly as possible,” Harris said.
Harris added, “I hope this is a new day for police oversight and transparency in the city, that people who have been harmed by, you know, people who work for our city now have some opportunity to bring justice and to ensure that people who abuse immense police powers are not necessarily going to get to keep those powers,” Harris said.
Some Austin City Council members joined Equity Action at their watch party in support of Prop A.
Council member Zohaib “Zo” Qadri (District 9) said he hoped Saturday’s election results could bring the police union back to the table to negotiate a new contract with the city.
“I think it only speaks to the voters and the city and the voters who want to see real oversight and accountability,” Qadri said. “We want to approach a long-term contract in good faith because it’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing for our officers to do. It’s the right thing for our constituents to do. And what ultimately makes us a safe city,” Qadri said.
The union police’s last contract expired earlier this spring, and the city approved a one-year interim agreement to maintain officer benefits while the city worked on a new contract for Austin police officers.
Passing Proposition A means that a city ordinance called the “Austin Police Oversight Act” will be enacted. The order will determine the roles and powers of the Bureau of Police Oversight and the Community Police Review Commission and require the bureau to make disciplinary recommendations to the Chief of Police after an investigation into the conduct of officers.
For a more detailed review of the two propositions and the meaning of the Proposition A passage, click the guide here.
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