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SAPD Touts Reforms At Mayor's Second Community Relations Meeting

San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley talking with particpants at Tuesday's Police-Community Relations Council meeting.

San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor held the second in a series of meetings on police-community relations Tuesday.

SAPD Chief William McManus kicked things off with a rundown of recent police reform efforts. He mentioned body cameras, incentives for officers who live in the city and new trainings for crisis intervention and de-escalation, among other things.

McManus also touted the Department’s early adoption of the Obama administration’s 21st Century Policing task force recommendations.

That top-down reform effort was cited earlier this year by the San Antonio Police Officers Association as one of the reasons union membership overwhelmingly cast votes of no-confidence against McManus this year. 

On Tuesday, the Chief was asked how he can change police culture without officer support. McManus downplayed that challenge.

“We’ve had a number of conversations, I’ve had a number of conversations with the association, and I will tell you that we are past that issue today,” said McManus. “That is my answer.”

But San Antonio Police Officers Association Vice President Dean Fischer says the no-confidence vote isn’t in the past. 

“I can’t say that the issue is completely dead,” Fischer said. “The situation is getting better. It’s not completely over. There are still tensions out there. We are having dialogue with the chief. I’ve personally had straight dialogue with the chief on where the heartburn lies among the troops.”

Mayor Taylor formed her Council on Police-Community Relations last month, after City Council approved a new collective bargaining agreement with the police union. Opponents of that agreement wanted more police accountability measures. Taylor asked the new policing council to be a part of the conversation for the long haul.

“I don’t want people to think that this is just a setup for us to act like everything’s fine in San Antonio and we’re singing kumbaya,” Taylor said. “No, that’s not what this is about, okay? We could do that with a press conference. What this is about is finding real solutions for our community.”

In the second half of Tuesday's meeting, participants talked through some of their suggestions for improving community-police relations, as meeting facilitators jotted them down on poster boards.  

Mayor Taylor says the group will ultimately come up with recommendations to be considered by the City Council’s Public Safety Committee. She acknowledges that—because of the new police union contract—the group will come up with some ideas that won’t be able to go into place anytime soon.

Taylor tentatively scheduled the next meeting for November 7.