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Union President Calls For San Antonio Police Chief To Be Placed On Leave

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus
Joey Palacios | Texas Public Radio
San Antonio Police Chief Willam McManus

The president of the San Antonio Police Officers' Association is asking the City Council to place Police Chief William McManus on leave. This follows the chief’s decision to release 12 immigrants found in a trailer last month to Catholic Charities instead of to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The union’s president Mike Helle said McManus violated department policies and wants a third party to determine if McManus violated state or federal policies.

“I feel the actions he took that day were in direct conflict with the expectations set by the department’s rules and regulations. The specific actions taken can be seen as contradictory with the previous disciplinary actions taken by the chief in prior disciplinary cases,” said Helle in the two page letter to the San Antonio City Council.

Helle plans to reach out to the Texas attorney general and justice department and ask for a review.

“Let this independent body interview the officers that were on the field, interview detectives, interview the supervisors and then make a determination if this was done appropriately,” he said via phone Tuesday.

San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley said in a statement she has no intention to place McManus on administrative leave.

“No rule, directive, regulation or law was broken or circumvented. The chief acted within his jurisdiction and, as acknowledged by federal law enforcement, had no real authority to hold the 12 individuals after they were questioned,” she said.

A San Antonio Police Department spokeswoman did not directly respond to Helle’s claims but said the 12 individuals in the truck were taken to SAPD headquarters for questioning on Dec. 23. An agent from Homeland Security Investigations was present and had access to the migrants and “at no time did SAPD restrict or prevent the HSI agent from taking custody of the individuals.”

The driver, 58-year-old Herbert Alan Nichols, was arrested and charged with human smuggling — a state felony offense. A female passenger was questioned and released. At a press conference Thursday, McManus said it was his decision to make this a state charge instead of federal based on the situation.

District 4 Councilman Rey Saldana said it is not up to the SAPD to act as immigration agents or federal authorities and believes the chief did not violate any laws.

“Frankly, I think the chief would welcome the U.S attorney’s office or (Texas Attorney General) Ken Paxton’s office to come in and do an investigation because what they’ll find out is everybody did their job and everybody stayed within bounds and nobody violated the constitutional right of somebody who’s in the country because I will remind folks that the 14th amendment protects anyone who is in the country lawfully, unlawfully, or transitory. … There’s constitutional rights that can’t be violated,” Saldana said.

  • READ | Letter from the San Antonio Police Officer's Association

Joey Palacios can be reached at joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @joeycules