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Hoping to retain staff, Austin gives police officers a 4% raise

Austin Police Department cars
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT

Austin police officers will get a pay increase starting next month.

The 4% raises, which were approved by the Austin City Council last week, come amid a bitter labor contract negotiation between the city and the police union. The current contract expires at the end of the month.

Council's plan also gives $5,000 in retention bonuses to be paid out next year and up to $15,000 for cadets who start classes after April. All police officers could get a $2,000 bonus if the Austin Police Association and the city reach a deal on a labor contract.

The incentives are intended to encourage officers to stay with the department, which currently has 264 officer vacancies.

The union signaled last month it would not negotiate on a short-term contract ahead of a citywide vote on police oversight in May.

Council members put off a vote on a four-year police contract, arguing they wanted voters to weigh in on two city ballot measures in May. Proposition A would strengthen the Office of Police Oversight and a civilian review board; Proposition B, which was financially backed by the police union, would weaken the OPO.

APA said it wouldn't negotiate a one-year extension of its contract before it expires March 31.

APD Chief Joseph Chacon told the city's Public Safety Committee this week nearly 20 officers have left since negotiations over the four-year contract broke down.

All told, 57 officers have left this year, and as many as 25 have filed paperwork to leave, he said. The chief added that the department has two cadet classes in session, with a total of 68 recruits.

The department has also struggled to staff its 911 call center, leading to as many as 50 officers a month being temporarily reassigned to take calls.

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Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at aweber@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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