Call to ‘defund the police’ in San Antonio could strain already thin resources, police union president says

Police union president discusses initiatives in place to unify San Antonio law enforcement, community
Police union president discusses initiatives in place to unify San Antonio law enforcement, community

SAN ANTONIO – “Defund the police" is a phrase that has become a rallying cry shouted by protesters in the Black Lives Matter movement nationwide. While some throughout the nation are calling for a complete overhaul of their municipal departments, in San Antonio, some are hoping that some police department funds are reallocated to help improve community relations.

“We want to get rid of that barrier between law enforcement and that fear from the community,” peaceful protest organizer Antonio Lee said.

There’s a growing call to defund the police. Here’s what it means

Lee said helping to bridge the gap includes redistributing some of the San Antonio Police Department’s funding and putting funds toward community engagement efforts.

“We've got to work altogether,” Lee said.

San Antonio Police Officers Association President Mike Helle pointed out several efforts already in the works, like culturally sensitivity training for officers and recreational activities, such as midnight basketball. However, he agreed that the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota shows there's still a need to improve the local relationship between the public and law enforcement.

“Because if it was up to par when these type of incidents happen, I would hope that the community would have stepped up and said, 'Hey, y'all need to kind of relax, because this is not this is not what's happening here,'” Helle said.

Helle said he’s not opposed to using city budget funds for further change, but he believes reallocating SAPD funds put a strain on resources already stretched thin in the department.

“Where do you want it to come from, or what do you want to cut? You want less policemen? Or do you want less patrol cars? What would you start cutting?” Helle asked.

Helle said the mayor and City Council are the ones who decide to reallocate budget funds.

“Every single year, (city leaders) go through actually a public process that allows community input on where they want money to be divided,” Helle said.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg has been in close talks with some protesters who are calling for accountability and anti-racist policies. Last week, Nirenberg charged San Antonians with holding him accountable for errors.

On Friday, KSAT asked what Nirenberg what he plans to do specifically to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community. Click here to read that story.