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Black Lives Matter Activists Urge Council To Vote 'No' On Police Contract

Members of the Black Lives Matter movement in San Antonio are urging council members to vote against the city's contract with the Police Officers' Association. The group opposes contract measures that allow some disciplinary actions to be removed from officer records.

Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio

Wednesday night nearly 30 members of Black Lives Matter addressed the City Council. That included  Jessica Butterworth, “The problems with this contract is just one of a bigger issue, we trust our law enforcement to make sound judgments for the sake of our protection and most of the discussion of recent police killings of unarmed black men there is an underlying assumption that the police are supposed to protect and serve the population, that is what they’re supposed to do right?”

Butterworth and others say measures  in the proposed police union contract change records and reduce the seriousness of incidents  resulting in officer discipline after several years. Previous contracts contained similar language. Mike Lowe, a Black Lives Matter activist says police are not above the law. “They’re law abiding citizens, or so we say, if a law officer’s record is going to be expunged, but citizens that they serve and protect, quote unquote, we don’t get those same freedoms either then we elevate one person above the other."It’s those disciplinary rules that are the reason District 4 City Councilman Rey Saldana says he will vote “no” when the council meets to ratify the contract on Sept. 1.

“Police departments reflect society, there’s a ton of great people but there’s also some bad apples, and we need to have the ability to weed out those bad apples. This contract does the opposite. It protects them.”

It took nearly three years of negotiations between the City of San Antonio and the police union to come to an agreement on healthcare and wage benefits. The contract even went to court and was finally settled by a mediator. The union membership approved the contract last week. 

San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor stands by the agreement.  She says she can understand some of the criticism of the long standing policy.

“However, given all the context of what we’ve been through, two years of arguing and debating I think it’s irresponsible for us to put ourselves in a position to continue to be at odds with our police force,” Taylor says.

“What do you mean at odds with the police force?”

Taylor went on, “Meaning if we don’t pass the contract we’re going to go back to start and stop negotiations or we’re going to court.” And the mayor wants to do what's necessary to avoid further legal action. San Antonio Police Officers Association President Mike Helle said in a statement the association respectfully disagrees  with the assertion by Black Lives Matter that our police department does not hold our officers accountable. "We politely remind them that our department has been evaluated and recognized through PERF and Nationally Accredited by CALEA acknowledging our departments transparency and of handling of complaints against police officers," Helle says. "Across the board in almost all categories our departments complaints against polices officers are down dramatically and do not support their assertions."

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules