Criminal Justice

After secret negotiations, Houston City Council will vote on a new contract with the police union. Here’s what’s in it

Union members have already voted to approve the agreement.

Houston Police cadets wear masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic while taking a class photo during a graduation ceremony at the Houston Police Academy, Friday, May 1, 2020, in Houston.

Council members are expected to vote Wednesday on the city’s new agreement with the Houston Police Officers’ Union, a consequential contract that determines disciplinary procedures and much of the nearly $1 billion budget for the Houston Police Department.

The contract was negotiated privately between the union and the mayor’s office, with no formal process for city council or the public to provide input.

Douglas Griffith, the union president, said he expects the council will unanimously approve the agreement.

Houston Public Media obtained a copy of the contract from two separate sources, who both asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to share the document.

Read the entire contract here:

Griffith pointed to a change in the new contract that will give the city more time to investigate alleged police misconduct incidents. Under a modification to what’s known as the 180-day rule, the city will have until 180 days from the date the alleged infraction was reported to issue discipline, instead of 180 days from the date the incident occurred. A similar change is in San Antonio’s new contract, as well.

“That is that is one that (the mayor’s task force on policing reform) wanted, and we agreed,” Griffith said. “We didn’t believe that should be an issue for anyone, including our officers. No one’s above the law. And we don’t want someone coming to work that shouldn’t be here. So the 180-day (rule) was a big bonus for the city, for them to have that opportunity to use the date of discovery versus date of incident.”

But Jaison Oliver, a community organizer, said it’s unclear whether the change is a win at all.

“I don’t know how many cases have been running up against or have been dismissed because of that 180-day rule,” Oliver said. “I don’t know functionally how much of a difference this makes. I’d be curious about that, but I really don’t know. But it just strikes as something that they’re using to make it seem like they fought for real reforms that doesn’t yield much in terms of change.”

Oliver, who was one of more than 200 Houstonians who signed up to speak at a city council meeting on police reform in 2020, said he would have liked to see the city end a 48-day rule that gives officers two days to prepare before they’re questioned about complaints and change the supervisory intervention process that provides a non-disciplinary alternative when officers have committed alleged infractions.

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