By Kristian Jaime
Just weeks after the city celebrated a ratified San Antonio Police Officers Association (SAPOA) contract, it is still drawing ire from City Council.
On Monday, City Councilman Rey Saldana (D4) was joined by former San Antonio City Councilwomen Patti Radle and Maria Berriozabal and U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) to decry controversial passages like Section 19.
It contends that officers facing disciplinary action are not subject to evidence of penal code, felony, controlled substance or Misdemeanor violations older than 180 calendar days from the initial report of an incident.
“What is coming up this Thursday is a contract between the entire City Council and Mayor weighing in on what I feel is an incomplete contract [with the San Antonio Police],” said Councilman Saldana (D4). “It is incomplete in accountability and transparency–two things that are good for the Police Department and the community.The call to action is that people want to have hard conversations about this.”
Another proposed clause states if this contract is approved by City Council, then officers who have served suspensions of three days or less to have it reduced to a written reprimand in their personnel file after two years without a similar charge.
“What we’re saying here today is that we’re not drawing a line in the sand, we’re saying that these issues can be agreed upon by everyone. If we’re not focusing on the details in this contract, then we’re creating bigger problems for ourselves,” continued Councilman Saldana (D4).
In statements released by Police Union President Mike Helle, he points out that the best resolution is a speedy vote on the contract by the City Council. Yet for the Councilman, the solution is simple as he alluded to in an e-mail to Mayor Ivy Taylor where he tells of his “disappointment” with the current proposal.
According to recommendations by those opposing the contract, deleting Section 19 and 21, a section squarely focused on appeals to the San Antonio Police Department by officers facing legal proceedings, the proposal will become a better reflection of true police reform. With a new contract up every five years, the implications of such disciplinary clauses have a relatively long legal shelf life.
Since April 3, 2014, the City of San Antonio has staunchly supported removing such clauses with little movement by the SAPOA. The city tried, once again, to remove the clauses on a separate list of recommendations on July 10, 2015. To date, it still exists in a current proposed draft.
“I’ll remind the Mayor there was a public hearing several months back where I met with her and we talked about these issues. She’s also seen my public statements for a long time now that this is something that I’m very interested in,” said Congressman Castro (TX-20). “There’s a police contract in front of this city and Mayor now, even assuming there was a shortcoming [when my brother was Mayor], that’s not an excuse to continue ignoring these issues.”
Both Councilman Saldana (D4) and Congressman Castro (TX-20) both pointed out that these concerns have been brought to the attention of the Mayor’s Office prior to the ratification by the SAPOA.
In a statement by Mayor Taylor later released in response the afternoon’s press conference, she bolstered her message that the contract ratification represents a fiscal and municipal victory.
“I am proud to have negotiated an agreement that keeps San Antonio on a secure fiscal path, protects taxpayers and fairly compensates our men and women in blue,” wrote Mayor Taylor. “I am working to address issues of discipline, accountability and transparency in the ranks–including creating the Mayor’s Council on Police-Community Relations.”
With the vote still scheduled for later this week, negotiations will most likely continue up till the vote itself.