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San Antonio Police Officers Association Denounces Police Reform Petitions With SAPD Chief Present

Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
Incoming police union president John"Danny" Diaz accuses FIX SAPD of misleading the public in its petition drive during a press conference held outside of the City of San Antonio's Public Safety Headquarters.

Police Chief William McManus joined the San Antonio Police Officers Association for a press conference at the city’s Public Safety Headquarters Monday as the union denounced two petitions that could amend protections and collective bargaining rights for police officers in San Antonio.

The union delivered claims that a coalition known as Fix SAPD is misleading the public in its signature drives to get two propositions on the May ballot. The press conference comes about a month before the City of San Antonio and SAPOA begin collective bargaining negotiations on a five-year contract.

John “Danny” Diaz, the association’s incoming President-elect, said that Fix SAPD is misrepresenting statements by Chief McManus, “lying about the radical intentions of the anti-police agenda” and dividing San Antonio.

“The group Fix SAPD is going door to door lying to voters and saying they are from the police department and that they have the support of Chief McManus,“ Diaz said.

Diaz claimed that they’ve received reports from citizens that Fix SAPD is being “physically aggressive” in efforts to get their signatures.

Members of Fix SAPD denied any such intimidation efforts or misrepresentation had taken place. The organization’s deputy director, Ananda Thomas, said at no point have Fix SAPD members impersonated SAPD officers or members of the police union.

“So that is misinformation being spread,” Thomas said. “We have never been aggressive, we teach our petitioners to not harass others. We have petitioners at polls be harassed by Back The Blue Supporters.”

SAPD and SAPOA are two separate organizations. Though SAPD is a city-run operation, SAPOA is a union organization made up of SAPD officers.

“What these anti-police activists don’t realize is that SAPOA and the chief of police are dedicated to keeping the department a model for the country and if reforms of anytime were to happen they would discussed and developed — as always — with the city and SAPOA sitting at the bargaining table negotiating in good faith,” Diaz said.

Chief McManus said he joined the union for the event on Monday to congratulate Diaz for winning the recent election within the union and that he welcomed a turning of the page.

Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus

“It’s a breath of fresh air coming into a new area knowing that we will be working together closely with the SAPOA on common goals,” McManus said.

The chief added that the reforms he wanted to see could be dealt with in the new collective bargaining negotiations.

“I’m confident that if we go forward in these negotiations that hopefully we will reach an amenable decision on the issues that I have concerns with,” the chief said.

McManus has named his concerns in the police contract as those that protect “bad officers.” He noted on Monday he still disfavors protections like a 180-day limit on when an officer can be punished or reprimanded from when misconduct took place, certain aspects of arbitration and a two-year limit on how far back previous disciplinary incidents can be reviewed when new offences occur.

He said he would not be present in the negotiations, which is typical for San Antonio’s past collective bargaining discussions. McManus did not comment on the petitions themselves; however, it is a matter of state law that municipal employees cannot take a stance on citizen driven petitions.

Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
Ananda Thomas and James Dykman of 'Fix SAPD' counter the claims made by the police union president shortly after the press conference with SAPD and SAPOA.

James Dykman, a board member of Fix SAPD, said the drive is for police accountability.

“We want to make sure that every officer knows that there is clear and concise consequences to their actions just as Chief McManus has said so himself and the only way to do this by repealing two laws,” said Dykman.

Those two laws are known as Chapters 174 and 143 which are state statutes that allow for collective bargaining, arbitration and civil service protections. Voters in San Antonio approved both of these in 1943 and 1974. The current petition would remove them if voters approve this initiative in May.

“This is a ballot initiative — democracy at its finest — the signature is only putting us on the ballot, our goal is to give San Antonio a voice and choice on repealing these laws,” Thomas said.

Beginning in the summer, activists have rallied during a racial reckoning over the death George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer, and locally, the killings of Darrell Zemault Sr during an encounter with SAPD and Damien Daniels at the hands of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department, both Black men as well.

These deaths have fueled continuing calls for police reform which birthed the two petitions being circulated by Fix SAPD.

Thomas and Dykman did not say how many signatures had been gathered only alluding to “tens of thousands.” Those petitions are due to the city clerk for certification in the coming days to determine they are registered voters in the City of San Antonio.

Nearly 100,000 signatures must be collected from San Antonio voters — about 70,000 to put the repeal of Chapter 143 on the ballot and 20,000 to repeal Chapter 174.

In order to make the May ballot, it must be formally submitted by the San Antonio City Council by mid-February.

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