San Antonio police union president compares racial slur used by officer to expletive used by Mayor Nirenberg

Mike Helle says 'goddamn' may be comparable to using the N-word

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Police Officers Association president is drawing criticism after comparing an expletive recently used by Mayor Ron Nirenberg to the N-word.

In a June 10 interview with KSAT, Mike Helle took issue with Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s speech to people who were protesting police brutality at City Hall. Nirenberg had committed to reform, saying, “because I’m the mayor of this goddamn city and we’re going to make change together, OK?”

WATCH: Mayor Ron Nirenberg delivers impassioned speech to protesters

While defending the reinstatement of Officer Tim Garcia, who was fired after repeatedly using the N-word during an arrest of a Black man inside a local mall, Helle brought up Nirenberg’s speech.

“If a policeman would have said the exact same thing that the mayor had done, he would have been facing discipline and probably termination because they’re saying that you brought discredit to the police department,” Helle said.

When asked if the two instances are comparable, Helle said “they are” before elaborating.

“If you’re somebody (who grew up with) a religious upbringing, that may be comparable to using the N-word,” Helle said.

Helle said Garcia “lost his composure” when using the racial slur and that he shouldn’t have said it. However, Helle said firing him over it was excessive.

He has a family and wife and kids,” Helle said. “He was out of a job for 10 months until the arbitrator agreed that the punishment was too harsh.”

Congressman Joaquin Castro tweeted about Helle’s comments Monday, saying that they have “truly done damage and disservice to the police officers of the SAPD.”

Helle, the longtime president of the local police officer’s union, said last month that he’ll step down at the end of the year.

A KSAT analysis found that fired officers who later appealed were reinstated to their jobs 67.5% of the time from 2010-2019, either by a third-party arbitrator or after the chief reconsidered their termination.

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.