City Council OKs new contract for police officers

Council members vote 9 to 2, Nirenberg and Saldana vote ‘no'

By Myra Arthur - Anchor/Reporter, David Ibanez - Web - Managing Editor

SAN ANTONIO - City Council members Thursday voted to approve the contract between the city and the San Antonio Police Officers Association, capping two years of stop and start negotiations and public contention.

The contract takes effect Thursday and expires on Sept. 30, 2021.

Click here to find out what’s in the contract (http://www.ksat.com/news/whats-in-contract-between-the-city-sapoa). 

District 9 Councilman Ron Nirenberg and Councilman Rey Saldana, representing District 4, voted against the deal.

“I know that this contract is not going to prevent bad behavior, but it will protect it,” Saldana said.

Saldana has, in recent weeks, spoken publicly in opposition to what he sees as a lack of officer accountability in the contract.

During discussion of the contract Thursday, Saldana asked new City Attorney Andy Segovia whether, based on the contract, an arbitrator would have access to an officer’s full disciplinary history.

Segovia answered, “no,” sparking gasps and groans from some in the audience.

“It reinforces as a rhetoric that the lives of the people that feel threatened by this contract, their lives don't matter,” said Jonathan David Jones, who stood before council members with a group opposing the contract Thursday.

Some in the group held signs that read “I am Marquise Jones.”

An SAPD officer shot and killed Jones in February 2014.

“Mayor, this deal ignores the goals we established for the health of the city from fiscal accountability to procedural police reform,” said Nirenberg.

Members of the Baptist Ministers Union stood up during the council meeting to show support for the contract.

“Across the nation there has been an abuse, I think, on both sides,” said Dr. Ronald Benson, pastor of First Bethany Baptist Church and chairman of the Political Action Committee for Baptist Ministers Union.

“We endorse the contract,” Benson said. “But we want to see a better relationship with our community and the police. We want to see trustworthiness mutual respect and accountability. And with that, we are ready to work together hand in hand.”

The weight of Thursday’s decision could be seen on the face of District 2 Councilman Alan Warrick, who had tears in his eyes at one point during the discussion.

“As a black man in America, I appreciate your struggle,” Warrick said to a group among the audience who spoke in oppose a lack of accountability in the contract. “I was on the other side.”

A woman in the crowd raised her voice to say, “You’re still on that side.”

“No,” Warrick said, “I have to be here on this side of the dais making the decisions that move the entire city forward.”

The majority of council members echoed that it was time for the city to move on.

“I’m asking that we move forward not because it’s an easy thing to do, it’s the right thing to do,” said District 7 Councilman Cris Medina.

While Mayor Ivy Taylor was pleased the contract was approved, she believes more work needs to be done to improve relations between the community and police.

Taylor is creating a committee charged with that task.

“When I envisioned getting to this moment, I thought that I would feel celebratory. However, I can't say that characterizes how I feel right now,” said Mayor Ivy Taylor. “I really have mixed emotions.”

“We've always said we have room for improvement and certainly we stand for that. We strive for excellence,” said Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association.

"We'll just keep working diligently between the chief and the police officers association in order to try to strengthen the system that we have in place,” Taylor said. “Discipline is just one aspect.”

Council Members React:

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