Apr 18, 2023 - News

Voters to decide fate of police oversight

Two competing police oversight measures are on the May 6 ballot. Photo: Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Voters in the May 6 election will decide the fate of two competing Austin police oversight measures.

Driving the news: Early voting begins Monday, and voters will have to parse through two similarly worded measures, with very different outcomes.

  • Proposition A would create the Austin Police Oversight Act to strengthen civilian oversight in the investigation of police misconduct cases.
  • Proposition B would limit the powers of the Office of Police Oversight and civilian Community Police Review Commission.

Flashback: Voters for Oversight and Police Accountability (VOPA), a political committee largely funded by the Austin Police Association, pushed Prop B to counter Prop A, brought by Equity Action.

  • But critics of Prop B, including local officials, argue that petition canvassers obscured the intent of Prop A and misled those who signed it.

What they're saying: "We need Prop A to make sure people's rights are respected and that when there is a problem or complaint it is addressed," Council Member José "Chito" Vela said in a press conference. "We need Prop A so the public can see what the police are doing and how they are policing us."

  • Supporters of the measure point to large settlements related to police misconduct cases, including a $10 million settlement with two men who were injured with police beanbag rounds during 2020 protests.

The other side: VOPA says Prop B will "bring transparency to the Austin Police Department" and protect officers' due process rights.

Yes, but: Senate Bill 2209, authored by state Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-Fort Worth), would ban civilian entities from investigating officer misconduct.

  • If the Legislature approves the bill, Austin's Office of Police Oversight would not be allowed to have a role in investigations.
  • The measure was left pending in a Senate committee this month.

What to watch: Whether voters will be able to understand the difference between the two propositions, and how the Texas Legislature could play a role in Prop A's fate.


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