Arbitration started Monday for a San Antonio Police Department officer who is trying to get a second indefinite suspension overturned.
Officer Matthew Luckhurst won reinstatement last year after being fired for giving a homeless man a feces sandwich.
Monday’s arbitration hearing is unrelated to that case but also involves feces.
Luckhurst and another officer defecated in a woman’s restroom at the downtown bike patrol office in June 2016.
Neither officer flushed the toilet and Luckhurst then smeared a brown substance on the seat to give the appearance there was fecal matter on it, according to a copy of his November 2016 termination paperwork.
A city attorney said Luckhurst harassed, intimidated and degraded female officers with the prank.
The first morning of testimony before an arbitrator was marked by frequent interruptions and objections from attorneys for both the city and Luckhurst.
Luckhurst’s main attorney, Ben Sifuentes, argued in his opening statement that terminating Luckhurst for the prank was extreme and that a 2016 suspension of an SAPD officer for harassment of a female police explorer was a suitable baseline for this case.
“I object. This is absolutely irrelevant to any of this,” said assistant city attorney Logan Lewis, who emphatically threw down a pen several times while Sifuentes delivered his opening remarks.
At one point, Sifuentes told Lewis to stop interrupting him.
SAPD Officer Jessica Medrano testified Monday about finding the feces the next day after Luckhurst and another officer left it. Medrano was more than eight months pregnant at the time and became physically ill after finding that someone “blew up” the only toilet available to women in the building.
“I had a lot of nausea during my pregnancy. As soon as I smelt it I wanted to vomit. I was gagging,” said Medrano.
She testified that she was “mad and disgusted" over the incident and said she would never work with Luckhurst again.
“It’s led to mistrust between the citizens of San Antonio and our department, that our officers have had to answer for his actions,” said Medrano.
A culture of retaliation
A key argument from Sifuentes was that officers had a duty to report the prank as harassment and failed to do so.
Medrano responded by describing a culture of retaliation within SAPD.
Medrano explained, “Often times I have found, anybody who tells on, narcs on, makes a complaint gets retaliation of some sort, but especially females. It gets passed around the department pretty quickly that a female complained on a male officer, and I didn’t want to suffer retaliation."
Despite her hesitation, records show Medrano eventually provided investigators a statement on the incident.
United States Congressman Joaquin Castro, who represents San Antonio, has cited the Luckhurst case as an example of the need for SAPD to re-examine how it disciplines officers.
“They do have to go in there as they’re negotiating and look at some of the disciplinary provisions. I don’t think it should be the case where somebody is able to serve a homeless man a feces sandwich and be on the verge of getting his job back," said Castro.
Multiple officers who have spoken with the Defenders have said they would not want to be part of a unit containing Luckhurst, should he ultimately be reinstated.
Arbitration for Luckhurst is tentatively scheduled to run through Thursday.
Arbitration about to begin for fired SAPD officer Matthew Luckhurst (blue tie). The officer behind the infamous feces sandwich is trying to get a second indefinite suspension overturned in connection to a prank at Bike Patrol headquarters #KSATnews pic.twitter.com/uelnXwvyUs— Dillon Collier (@dilloncollier) February 24, 2020