Model messages and talking points
Press for passage of the ordinance creating civilian oversight…with one critical amendment!
Your outreach to your City Council Member is crucial right now, and we thank you for calling or sending email to express your support for the one critical amendment we need to make the new civilian oversight system much better than the old one.
The amendment increases transparency and will ensure that a civilian panel will be able to participate when a critical incident occurs. Greater access to information about misconduct has always been a core requirement of civilian oversight, and lack of public information was the main reason the old system didn’t work.
Once the City has agree to the transparency amendment, we must urge our mayor and council members to create oversight NOW before the police contract is finalized. This will ensure that the minimum standards are in place by ordinance and cannot be undermined in any contract negotiation with the police association.
Don’t know your City Council Member? Check this map!
To Email your Council Member immediately, go to this page on the City’s website. Scroll down for some model emails you can use to get you started.
Better yet, make a phone call.
Mayor Stephen Adler 512-978-2100
District 1 Council Member Ora Houston 512-978-2101
District 2 Council Member Delia Garza 512-978-2102
District 3 Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria 512-978-2103
District 4 Council Member Gregorio “Greg” Casar 512-978-2104
District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen 512-978-2105
District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan 512-978-2106
District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool 512-978-2107
District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair 512-978-2108
District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo 512-978-2109
District 10 Council Member Alison Alter 512-978-2110
If you elect to call your council member and/or the Mayor, state clearly that you support setting up civilian oversight by ordinance AND amending the proposed ordinance to increase transparency. Why?
- Is it that our oversight system could has been bogged down by the police contract since 2000 and has only been tinkered with at the cost of millions of dollars in stipends and pay?
- Is it because we know nothing about misconduct that does not result in a suspension, and have no way to know that most misconduct is handled appropriately by the department?
- Do you wonder if, behind closed doors and in secret, police are cleared of wrong-doing largely because policies that should have been changed long ago are still in place and allow for conduct we no longer find appropriate?
- Would you like Austin to align with our peer cities, where civilian oversight has long been established by ordinance and they point to Austin as the “what not to do” example?
- Do you want better data, regular reporting and metrics for policing designed to reduce use of force, increase trust and establish the value of every human life?
- Do you want a civilian review panel that can take what it learns from critical incidents and more effectively promote policy, education, and training reforms?
If City Council amends the ordinance under consideration in order to increase what is made public about police conduct, and then uses the ordinance to build a strong, permanent system of civilian oversight (that is independent of negotiation with the police union) we will be able to address all these concerns. Tell them what’s important to you!
If you elect to email your council member, you can use very much the same criteria. Let them know the reason for your email, and explain we need a better system of oversight. We’ve drafted a few emails for your use! Please feel free to simply use one of these to expedite your email to your council member and/or mayor.
I am writing you with a sense of urgency in regard to civilian oversight in our city. We are at a critical moment when you can increase transparency, and then pass an ordinance creating a new system of oversight for our police department.
As a member of your district, I want you to know that I stand behind your decision last December to send the police contract back to the table, and the resultant opportunity that we have right now to establish civilian oversight by ordinance. Thank you.
I ask that you vote FOR the transparency amendment, and then finalize this ordinance before a decision is made on the contract to ensure civilian oversight doesn’t get tied up once again in a bargaining agreement. Our city deserves better (and has deserved better for a long time!) in our oversight system, and it can’t be a bargaining chip any longer. We must have a robust and innovative system that strengthens the public’s knowledge of how we are all being policed and builds trust.
I appreciate all that you can do to help pass this ordinance.
Almost a year has passed without a police contract in Austin, and in that year our Office of Police Monitor has functioned outside of a bargaining agreement. What a success!
We’ve learned that although our system of oversight was born of the contract, it can operate more effectively outside of the confines of our police labor agreement. From everything I’ve heard, Farah Muscadin, the current Police Monitor, is doing a great job with no contract in place.
Using civilian oversight as a bargaining chip in our police contract makes no sense and is not a standard or even a common practice. Other civilian oversight people asked Austin’s recently convened civilian oversight work group, “What sense does it make to hold oversight hostage in a police labor contract?” Many cities have constructed oversight through ordinance, and I ask that you do the same.
City management has rolled out a proposed ordinance that needs to be improved by amending it to increase public reporting about police misconduct. With greater access to information, we will be able to build a civilian review panel system in addition to the Police Monitor that can all function outside the contract. Vote YES to the transparency amendment and then pass this ordinance.
I continue to back your decision to say No to a faulty contract last year, and urge you to ensure that the issue of oversight in the contract is fixed by pulling it out of the contract, grounding it in an ordinance, and including in the contract only the items that ensure oversight can fully function, like the ability to accept anonymous complaints, a longer period during which the public can get complaints addressed, public release of information, and closeout meetings.
The city has drafted and circulated a proposed ordinance. It is a good start, but not as strong as the one circulated by community groups. I ask that you amend the city’s proposal specifically to increase public information about police misconduct so that we can all have faith that the oversight system is working, and over time we can even improve it. The “black box” around most information was the former system’s greatest shortcoming.
Please drive strong, independent and transparent civilian oversight across the finish line, and help to create a system that we, your constituents, can trust. We are fed up with the lack of access to our oversight body, the lack of information about complaints and misconduct, and the way all of this is locked down by our police contract.
I trust that you will help lead the way on this issue, and bring us into a new era of independent and strong oversight.
I would like to echo the demands from local advocates from the Austin Justice Coalition, Grassroots Leadership, ACLU of Texas, Austin Community Law Center, and others, regarding the passage of an ordinance to establish strong, independent oversight in our city.
The draft ordinance is a good start but needs an amendment to ensure transparency. Lack of information about most police misconduct was the greatest shortcoming of our old oversight system. The secrecy tied the hands and muffled the voices of all the civilians who participated. Let’s make sure we don’t do that again.
You’ve read all of the city-commissioned reports that pointed out the myriad issues of the old civilian oversight system, and you have a rare opportunity to act on the findings and recommendations to bring about access, resources, power, transparency, independence and community trust.
The time to create a comprehensive oversight by City ordinance is now! Pass the transparency amendment and then pass the ordinance.