SAN ANTONIO – UPDATE: San Antonio Police Department chief William McManus and officer Tim Garcia testified on Thursday, the second and final day of the arbitration hearing. The arbitrator said he will issue a ruling on whether Garcia’s termination will be overturned in 10 weeks.
A San Antonio police officer who was fired in January after repeatedly using a racial slur during the arrest of a black man is now fighting to have his dismissal overturned.
Wednesday marked the beginning of the projected two-day arbitration hearing for terminated officer Tim Garcia. City attorneys are asking the arbitrator to uphold Garcia's firing. KSAT.com attended the hearing.
Garcia's attorneys argued that while the 19-year veteran was wrong for using vulgar language and parroting racial slurs from the man he had arrested for trespassing, he shouldn't have been fired.
Garcia was recorded by his body-worn camera bantering with Dewaxne Robinson at River Center Mall on July 14, 2018. Robinson had been detained by mall security guards who claimed he was disturbing shoppers, and Robinson was asking for police to explain why he was being asked to leave.
On the body worn camera video, which was played back on Wednesday for city attorneys, the arbitrator and Garcia's attorneys, Robinson can be heard complaining about being arrested. Garcia was heard responding to the complaints, "You know what's bulls***? The way you were raised is bulls***."
Robinson is heard complaining about his arm being twisted while the handcuffs are being put on and used a racial slur, referring to Garcia as "n***a" several times, to which Garcia replies in a mocking tone, "N****? Do I look like your n****? Say it right. Put an 'r' at the end. If you're going to say it, don't call me n****. I ain't your n****."
Robinson, once again, asks why he was being arrested, Garcia sarcastically replies, "For being a f***ed up n****."
Rather than de-escalating the situation as officers are trained to do, Garcia continues to intensify the situation by interacting with Robinson, eventually stating "F*** you, too. Here, here, this is the police telling you f*** you. How do you like that?"
Morris Munoz, one of Garcia's attorneys, said during the hearing that media pressure was the reason Garcia was fired. Munoz said that San Antonio Police Department Chief William McManus, who has the final say on SAPD disciplinary actions, couldn't justify any lesser punishment to the media.
"Those are not reasons why you uphold a termination," Munoz said.
Munoz said that Garcia takes responsibility for his actions and has deep remorse.
"We're not here today to argue that Tim Garcia did not do anything wrong. Officer Garcia is a reputable officer and has been assigned to bike patrol since 2009 where he interacts with hundreds if not thousands of individuals," Munoz said, adding that Garcia's July 2018 actions were not intended to be discriminatory.
Logan Lewis, an attorney for the city, called Garcia a liability.
"You're going to hear (McManus) say that, having someone on the force -- when asked 'Why are you arresting me?' by a black person -- saying 'I'm arresting you because you're a N-word,' is just a liability. It's something you can never have on on the staff," Lewis said during opening statements.
Pointing to future implications of not firing Garcia, Lewis said McManus had no choice but to dismiss the officer.
"He has to terminate this individual for the benefit of the department and the civilians, the citizens of San Antonio, because he's the chief of police for all demographics, all races in San Antonio. And he has to keep all the best interests in mind," Lewis said.
Garcia's attorneys are asking that the arbitrator overturn his firing and impose a less severe punishment. They're also asking for back pay and benefits, should Garcia be reinstated.
While the hearing is scheduled to conclude Thursday, it can take months, if not longer, before an arbitrator reaches a decision in the case.