SAN ANTONIO – The associations for San Antonio Park Police and San Antonio Airport Police have filed a joint lawsuit against the city of San Antonio and City Manager Erik Walsh.
More than 200 San Antonio Park and Airport police fall under the broad umbrella of the San Antonio Police Department, yet they are different entities in specific ways.
A petition filed Tuesday said the officers "deserve the same compensation, benefits, and contractual rights and opportunities as their brothers and sisters in SAPD."
"The base level of pay would change. The health care coverage would change. The incentive pays would change. The education pays would change. All of that would be the same because we would all be covered under one collective bargaining agreement," said Henry Bassuk, president of the San Antonio Park Police Officer Association.
Bassuk said his officers receive the same benefits package as all nonuniform city employees, and their pay scale is different.
The parks they cover across the city include the Riverwalk, the Alamo, Hemisfair Park and Market Square.
According to the city website, San Antonio Park Police take about 40,000 calls and make 5,000 to 7,000 arrests every year.
"I'm arresting state jail felonies. I'm arresting third-degree felonies. Our responsibilities have increased over the last decade," Bassuk said.
SAPD responded to the lawsuit Monday with the following statement:
"We appreciate the partnership that exists between SAPD Officers and Park and Airport Officers. There are, however, differences in the minimum standards and qualifications to becoming an SAPD Officer versus a Park or Airport Officer. Although there are substantial distinctions in training, investigative authority and responsibility, the Park and Airport Officers are dedicated partners who assist SAPD and provide an important role in public safety within their areas of responsibility."
A further explanation said SAPD officers must complete a 35-week nationally recognized Police Training Academy and must have more rigorous hiring standards.
San Antonio Park and Airport police attend a regional 16-week program to become state peace officers.
It was also noted that only SAPD officers can address and follow up on offenses above a third-degree felony.
"I don't in any way want this to be that we're attacking the San Antonio police officers or the police officers association, because we're not," Bassuk said.
In June and July, the San Antonio Airport Officers Association president and the union's shared lawyer Ricky J. Poole engaged in talks with the city about possible changes.
During one of the meetings, Poole said, "It feels like these guys are a division of San Antonio Police Department. I know that's not the position the city takes, I understand that."
Paperwork shows City Manager Erik Walsh proposed adding 4% across-the-board pay increases for San Antonio Park and Airport police for fiscal year 2020. However, Bassuk said that one-year deal doesn't secure enough for the long-term future.
Once the city and Walsh have been served and respond to the case, it can be set for trial.
Prior to trial, there is an opportunity for both parties to try to reach a resolution.