City Council Affirms Contract Despite Late Objections To Police Discipline Records Clause
A hard-fought contract between the City of San Antonio and San Antonio Police Officers Association was finally approved, 9 to 2, by the City Council Thursday. Questions of whether the contract conceals officer misdeeds were raised in recent weeks, but didn’t derail the agreement.
The city and the police union have spent 2-1/2 years on the officers’ contract and lots of taxpayer money for lawsuits and a mediated settlement. The contract gives a 17 percent raise to officers over 5 years. Three percent of that is a lump sum payment paid almost immediately. The contract also requires officers to pay healthcare premiums for dependents for the first time.
The contract has come under fire by Councilman Rey Saldaña for something that hasn’t gotten attention during the years of negotiations - the way the contract limits access to an officer’s previous record if the officer is involved in an incident.
“On substance, we still don’t have a good argument for saying why an arbitrator shouldn’t have access to a full officer’s discipline record,” Saldaña said during Thursday’s council meeting.
That issue of accountability is the primary reason councilmen Saldaña and Ron Nirenberg said they were voting against the contract. The contract allows some officer suspensions to be recorded as reprimands after 2 years have passed. The Chief of Police can see an officer’s entire record when there’s a dispute over discipline, but an arbitrator making disciplinary recommendations will only have access to a few years of the officer’s records.
City Manager Sheryl Sculley said the city wanted to change that policy but the police union declined. “In the end it was a ‘no go,’ that is they refused to make changes in the disciplinary process. Early on in 2014 and 2015 the focus on the negotiations was on the cost, that is wages and healthcare as well as the legal fund,” Sculley said.
San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor supports the contract, saying it’s not perfect. She acknowledges the seriousness of the accountability issue.
“Though, I will pause to make a confession, as a black American I find it troubling that these issues have become relevant to some people because of the technology that’s available today,” Taylor said. “Minority communities have been dealing with these realities for decades in cities across our nation and that’s why people feel the need to affirm that black lives matter. It’s an ongoing challenge; it’s not a new issue.”
SAPOA President Mike Helle says he supports the creation of a new task force to monitor community policing and says he’ll be involved.
“In the interest of always ensuring that this department is the best in this country, SAPOA has agreed to join Mayor Taylor in the community police task force to ensure we actively listen and we learn how this community feels about its police officers and how we can get better at the jobs that we do,” Helle said.
An e-mail sent out by Mayor Taylor’s office late Thursday said the first task force meeting will take place later this month. “Our police department has been noted as a national leader in police training and they are working on implementing national reforms that make sense for our community. Still, I understand the need and the outcry for more accountability and transparency within the department, which is why I created the Mayor’s Council on Police-Community Relations,” Mayor Taylor said in the statement.
Members who have accepted the invitation to join the council are:
Oliver Hill, NAACP Mike Lowe, SATX4 Walter Perry, Community Leader Cassandra Littlejohn, Community Leader Rev. Eli Bonilla, Abundant Life Church Rev. Jerry Dailey, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church Rev. Paul Stevens, Baptist Ministers Union Tommy Adkisson, Former Bexar County Commissioner Denise Barkhurst, Big Brothers Big Sisters Darrell Boyce, San Antonio Fighting Back Robert Salcido, Pride Center Analco Gonzalez, OCI Group Dr. Carey Latimore of Trinity University Taj Matthews, Claude and Zernona Black Leadership Foundation Brian Dillard, Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Assoc. Natalie Garza, District Director for State Representative Ina Minjarez Michael Hu, Community Leader Sean Green, My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio Ramon Juan Vasquez, American Indians in TX Nehemiah O Neal, Community Leader Munirah Small, Mothers of Black Boys Beverly Watts-Davis, Community Leader Johnathan Delmer, Oak Park – Northwood Neighborhood Association Dr. Michael Gilbert, UTSA, Dept. of Criminal Justice C LeRoy Cavazos, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Willie Ng, Office of District Attorney Nico LaHood SAPOA representatives
The Council will be tasked with recommending specific actions in five areas:
How the police collaborate with the community; How we communicate within and among City departments and the community about policing and public safety; Our police recruitment targets and processes; Initial and ongoing training for our officers; and Our timeline for change and adopting a process that is transparent and encourages accountability.