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As Contract Vote Nears Saldaña And Castro Ask For Delay, New Deal

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Joey Palacios
/
Texas Public Radio
(Right to left) District 4 City Councilman Rey Saldana is joined by U.S Rep Joaquin Castro, former San Antonio City Councilwoman Maria Berriozabal and Former Councilwoman Patti Radle. Aug. 29 2016

San Antonio City Councilman Rey Saldaña is calling on Mayor Ivy Taylor and the rest of the council to delay approval of the city’s contract with police. Saldaña was joined by U.S Rep. Joaquin Castro on Monday as both of them denounced sections of the contract that would allow officer disciplinary actions to be reduced.

 

Saldaña says the police contract with the city focused mainly on healthcare and wage issues, and it's incomplete.

“Incomplete for our community and incomplete with respect with the accountability and transparency that not only is good for the police department but also good for the community.”

Saldañasays the contract allows officer discipline records to be changed so that the severity of some police misconduct actions are reduced after several years have passed. For instance, the contract allows some suspensions be reduced to reprimands after two years have passed.  Saldaña says that needs to be changed.

“There are certain provisions in the language that if we do not fix them can be bad for our community and if we’re not focusing on the details like the details in this contract, we can create bigger problems for ourselves.”

Union President Mike Helle claims  the proposed contract doesn’t entirely expunge an officer’s history and that the chief has access to an officer's entire career record.

“The only time it would ever be expunged is if he got a court order because he was wrongfully accused of some crime or something and due to that investigation he went through the court to get all of his information expunged, he could do that. But unless he doesn’t do that, that record stays permanent. ”

 

It took two and a half years of numerous negotiations, a lawsuit, and a mediated settlement to reach an agreement on the pending contract. The  San Antonio Police Officers Association voted to approved it earlier this month. Now it’s up to City Council on Thursday.

 

Saldañais asking Mayor Taylor to stop the vote untl there's a new contract that addresses the accountability issues.

“And we believe we can accomplish that in three weeks because the complicated issues were the salaries and healthcare.”

 

Police Union President Mike Helle says it’s not that simple.  

 

“His characterization that this thing is ‘Oh. let’s sit down and drink some tea and we just hammer it out over three weeks is totally ridiculous.”

 “To go back and try to reopen this thing back up again just creates a whole ‘nother paradigm of arguments that both sides are going to try to gain on issues that we didn’t get the first time around.”

Currently, only Councilman Ron Nirenberg has joined Saldaña in opposition to the contract. Others, including Ray Lopez and Alan Warrick are supporting San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor.  She believes there is a strong contract in place.

“Once we move past the contract then that creates so much space for us to have constructive dialog on police-community relations, how we can provide better training and policing  in our communities,” she says.

U.S. House Rep. Joaquin Castro joined Saldaña  in calling for a contract change. The congressman’s twin brother HUD Secretary and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is also backing Saldaña .

 

Saldañahas been criticized for not raising his opposition to the contract during the two years it was being negotiated.  The mayor says she plans to  ask council members to approve the contract as scheduled on Thursday.