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How each San Antonio City Council member says they would change police collective bargaining agreement

SAPD Chief said state laws and CBAs have protected "bad officers"

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SAN ANTONIO – Following the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes over an alleged $20 counterfeit bill, cities across the country have been reviewing their own issues as it relates to policing.

Support for police reform in San Antonio and across the country is widespread and bipartisan.

Like other major cities, San Antonio is locked in to a collective bargaining agreement with the local police union, the San Antonio Police Officers Association.

Many of the protections afforded to officers have been scrutinized recently by activists and city council members alike.

For example, in San Antonio, officers accused of misconduct are allowed a 48-hour notice before any interview takes place. During that time, officers can review all of the evidence against them in the investigation.

Also, police administrators can only discipline an officer if the misconduct happen within a 180-day window. This clause is problematic because the department may not be aware of allegations until the statute of limitations expires.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus also sees problems with the collective bargaining agreement and a few state laws that are in place. In both cases, he said, they “actually protect the bad officers.” (See that full clip at the bottom of the article.)

While all city council members agree that things need to change when the city negotiates the next collective bargaining agreement in 2021, some have different views on how the issue should be approached.

So KSAT asked every City Council member, as well as Mayor Ron Nirenberg, if they agree with McManus’ assessment on the current collective bargaining agreement and what they’d like to do during next year’s negotiations. See your representative’s unedited response, in full, below. (Not sure who your council representative is? Check here.)

RELATED: We asked every San Antonio City Council member why COVID-19 cases are spiking, what should be done

Mayor Ron Nirenberg

KSAT: Do you believe the current collective bargaining agreement protects “bad officers,” as noted by Chief McManus? What do you want to see change (or not change) next year during negotiations?

Nirenberg: The current collective bargaining agreement -- along with the arbitration process created in state statute and approved by voters in 1947 -- does protect “bad officers.” Chief McManus’ decisions to fire officers for cause must be the last word if he is going to enforce true discipline. Under the current rules, he is overruled too often because the system is tilted to protect officers from disciplinary actions.

The discipline issue will be one of the key points of negotiation next year when the next CBA is crafted.

DISTRICT 1 Roberto C. Treviño

KSAT: Do you believe the current collective bargaining agreement protects “bad officers,” as noted by Chief McManus? What do you want to see change (or not change) next year during negotiations?

Treviño: I agree that as the contract stands right now does protect bad officers. The focus last time was primarily on health care and this time it must focus on police reform and accountability. We must also push for robust community engagement and create opportunities for the community to speak up. It is vital to understand what the public wants to see in their public safety departments.

DISTRICT 2 JADA ANDREWS-SULLIVAN

There are fundamental changes that need to be made in the new agreement. Particularly, the maintain an officer’s disciplinary history, citizens review committee with enforcement powers, Improved trainers and training curriculum that truly addresses de-escalation and negotiation techniques.

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DISTRICT 3 REBECCA J. VIAGRAN

I have, in the past and now, have worked toward and will continue to work towards dismantling systemic and institutional racism and sexism in San Antonio, State, Nation and wherever I can.

In specific regards to Police Department, I do believe the collective bargaining agreement needs to change and it allows more transparency and accountability. I do believe that sealing of past records needs to be changed. In my opinion, the arbitration process does not favor justice for the individuals and I vehemently oppose officers getting back pay if they are reinstated.

I believe we need to have an external 3rd party independent reviewer of all officer involved shootings.

We have to look at contracting practices, promotion practices, and implicit and explicit racism and sexism whether in the police department or any City department or Boards and Commissions.

For the past 3 years my residents have asked for a police substation. I think we still need to stay true to that commitment, but reinvent the way we look at it. See it in a way that's more helpful for all of our communities develop it as a PUBLIC SAFETY substation, not just Police substation. Yes, we will have some law enforcement officers but, I hope we can have conversations about having a dispute resolution center, an area for fair housing, area for domestic violence. A substation that will be more than just law enforcement.

I do believe we can think more creatively and be better with the budgeting of the police department we have a very significant and incredible opportunity for realignment of budget dollars to areas that can help address issues upstream and move those dollars from Police to Domestic violence prevention, fair housing, mental health, small business support.

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DISTRICT 4 ADRIANA ROCHA GARCIA

I think recent and past events have shed more light on the intricacies of the collective bargaining agreement and how this in turn affects policing in our communities. As we learn about the legal framework in which CBAs are permissible under Texas Law and how our residents in 1974 voted to support this through a petition, I think it’s timely for us to discuss the aims of this sort of negotiation. I want to learn more about how restorative justice and more specialized training can shift our understanding and expectations about public safety. The perspectives of our community members, especially the most disenfranchised, and our officers along with community partners will be critical as we begin these conversations.

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DISTRICT 5 SHIRLEY GONZALES

I will no longer be in office when the Police Collective Bargaining Agreement is up for renewal in September of 2021 - this is my last term in office so that will fall on the shoulders of my successor.

I’m encouraged by the intensity of the public conversation concerning policing. In my seven years in office public safety has always been the top concern among residents and voters. That is changing. In the past few weeks the conversation has shifted concerns, and things like demilitarizing the police force and finding different ways to address safety issues have risen to the top. I don’t think more police training is enough, there needs to be deep police engagement policy shifts - the way police interact with the community, the way they perceive people of color - and the changing public sentiment will go a long way towards re-focusing political will. Deep changes to the bargaining agreement will be easier to come by, but it will still be a difficult lift.

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DISTRICT 6 MELISSA CABELLO HAVRDA

We need to take a hard look at the collective bargaining agreement to ensure the officers that continue to have serious disciplinary issues related to brutality and use of force are not protected by the CBA. I believe in implementing a three-person disciplinary review committee that includes the Chief, a representative from SAPOA, as well as an outside unbiased individual. There should also be a national database that tracks police officer conduct that is assessable to the police departments and the public, so bad officers cannot move to another city to seek employment without their record following them due to sealed documents.

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DISTRICT 7 ANA SANDOVAL

Of course. Right now, the 180-day discipline limit included in the contract protects even an officer who served a sandwich of excrement to a citizen.

Whether the wrongdoing took place yesterday or last year, it is nonetheless a wrongdoing that degrades the reputation of the force, the union and the community. The collective bargaining agreement does not distinguish among types of errors – failing to file paperwork or excessive use of force. As written, the agreement inherently condones all wrongdoing – regardless of severity – committed outside the 180-day limit. That must change.

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DISTRICT 8 MANNY PELÁEZ

The current collective bargaining agreement with SAPOA impedes SAPD’s ability to keep bad actors off of the force, particularly through the binding arbitration clause. What tends to happen is that officers who are rightfully suspended go to arbitration and overwhelmingly get returned to the force. The best that SAPD can do to keep them off of the streets when they get reinstated is to assign them to an administrative desk job. I believe we need to revisit this issue in the next police contract, but also perhaps expand arbitration to three member panels, as is the case with firefighters. The current process with one arbitrator has created a trust crisis.

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DISTRICT 9 JOHN COURAGE

There are bad actors every where, in every organization, every business, and every profession. It is the responsibility of the community, organization leadership or association to call them out and weed them out. I believe the vast majority of our Police officers are good decent men and women doing a very challenging job, but a vital one.

I believe that some of the discipline provisions of the current collective bargaining agreement with the SAPOA allows too many bad actors to slip through the cracks and return to policing when the PD and community would be better off without them.

A persons past actions should always be relevant to their conduct. History is Prologue. If we don’t learn from history we are bound to see it repeated.

I will be advocating for significant changes in the next collective bargaining agreement that will more fully empower the Chief of Police and the city staff to permanently remove any bad actors that undermine the integrity of our Police Department and endanger the safety of our citizens.

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DISTRICT 10 CLAYTON PERRY

I acknowledge the need for these serious conversations to be had regarding police reform, however I believe that we should not enter into these discussions without accurate data on the topic or in concert with the union We need time to fully vet these issues, and see them through our local lens.

Chief McManus has instituted many programs and changes that are working very well in San Antonio. SAPD has mandatory yearly training and in-service hours far above and beyond the minimum requirements of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

We can address the concerns of the community through open dialogue and conversation. I have been advocating for City Management to open discussions with SAPOA for several months and they now have. I believe that everything is up for negotiation with the contract, and I look forward to assisting in those conversations where I can.


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