SAN ANTONIO – For the fifth day in a row, San Antonio activists and community members have been marching the streets of downtown demanding change after the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
So, what can be done for change to come for San Antonio?
Former city councilman Mario Salas points to changes in the police union contract, more power for the police advisory board and a full count of in-custody deaths that have occurred in recent years that have given police officers more power.
“I hear this all the time. Well, we’re not like Ferguson. We’re not like Minnesota. Yes, we are. It’s just covered it up,” Salas said.
Salas said the city has a lot to do before the community can feel like justice is on their side.
“This protest is not going to stop until we see some significant changes in how police abuse or excessive force complaints are handled,” he said.
District 2 City Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan, who sits on the city’s Public Safety Committee, said her council peers are not on the same page that something has to change moving forward.
“We’ve had incidents here in San Antonio, and they weren’t as widely or worldly broadcast,” she said. “But we have incidents with there being incidents with young African-American men or people of color that have been taken away from us through the force of police actions.”
Moving forward, Andrews-Sullivan wants the community to be involved in the dialog at city council meetings to make that change happen.
A KSAT “Broken Blue” special investigation in January found that two-thirds of fired police officers were able to get their job back through the arbitration process. The investigation also found loopholes in the disciplinary process. The five-year collective bargaining agreement was approved in 2016 and is set to expire in September 2021. Even amidst the current situation, the city attorney and city leaders were not ready to say what, if any changes, might be made to the CBA.
“Right now is not the right time to start outlining a framework in terms of what we’re gonna do with the CBA,” said City Attorney Andy Segovia. “There’s still time to work with the council, work with the community on that.”
Mayor Ron Nirenberg said that change is complex. “The community is raising their voices and they want reform, and we’re listening,” he said.