SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: This story is part of KSAT Defenders’ “Broken Blue” investigative series digging into misconduct and disciplinary procedure in the San Antonio Police Department. The series will culminate with a one-hour investigative special airing on Jan. 12 at 9 p.m. For more reporting on this topic, click here.
San Antonio Police Department Lieutenant Lee Rakun is no stranger to the arbitration process. The embattled officer, who has successfully won his job back every time he has been fired, is currently in the midst of appealing for a sixth reinstatement.
Rakun’s lengthy disciplinary record is an example of the broad rights afforded to police officers in the city’s collective bargaining agreement.
SAPD administration has taken disciplinary action against Rakun dating back to 1994, according to records obtained under public information law by KSAT and the San Antonio Express-News. Often, his suspensions were for behavior described as combative or insubordinate by his supervisors.
After a decade of suspensions, Rakun was first fired in 2005, after a strenuous encounter with a Kendall County sheriff’s deputy who responded to a disturbance complaint reported at his home. Rakun was accused of striking two women at his house, but the charges were later dropped after the victims withdrew their complaints, according to the newspaper.
The lieutenant received another indefinite suspension later that year, when a man accused Rakun of making threatening calls, leading to a harassment charge from the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office.
After the misdemeanor charges were dropped, the city agreed to a settlement in 2006 that allowed Rakun to return to work.
In 2010, Rakun was fired again, according to the newspaper. He was reportedly involved in two dating violence incidents with his girlfriend and lied to investigators about his version of events. Rakun and his girlfriend both accused each other of abuse.
After appealing the indefinite suspension, Rakun won his job back in a settlement and the punishment was reduced to a 125-day suspension.
In 2012, Rakun was handed his fourth indefinite suspension when he drunkenly used slurs while speaking to an off-duty constable at an Alamo Heights bar.
In that appeal, the arbitrator sided with Rakun, saying that Internal Affairs investigators were biased against him, according to the newspaper. Rakun was reinstated and served a 45-day suspension.
Six years later, Rakun received two more indefinite suspensions.
In one case, Rakun wrote a derogatory slur in a February 2018 Facebook post about Chief William McManus. McManus had addressed the media at that time in a police uniform top and gym shorts, due to a knee surgery.
Rakun posted: “Really? This is our police chief for san antonio? Well, I guess I need to start showing up to work in some old fagged (oops ragged) out gym shorts Instead of police uniform. He sets the tone for the rest of us.”
Records obtained by KSAT showed that Rakun won his appeal for this incident in arbitration.
“When you’re a public figure and you’re in this profession, you have to expect that things are maybe going to be said about you that you didn’t like,” Rakun told Internal Affairs. “Well, I do believe it’s inappropriate for our commanding officer and leader of this department, such a major department, to be wearing in public that kind of stuff.”
The other firing came after Rakun continually left his substation while on duty for personal reasons. When his captain asked him about the absences, Rakun responded, “I’ll respond when you respond to the same allegations. It works both ways."
Rakun is currently appealing to an arbitrator in that case, records show.
Attempts to reach Rakun for comment were unsuccessful. Ben Sifuentes, his former attorney, said he no longer represents Rakun and had no comment on him.
“Clearly, the current collective bargaining agreement limits the Chief’s ability to appropriately discipline officers that deserve to be disciplined. We intend to bring those issues to the next contract negotiation with the police union," said City Manager Erik Walsh in a statement to KSAT. "I am hoping the police union will agree that these cases tarnish and impact the community’s confidence in our police department. The residents of San Antonio expect better behavior from police officers than what these individuals demonstrated, and frankly, so do I. Fortunately, the conduct of these few does not reflect of the high character of the more than 2,300 other officers on the streets protecting our community today.”