San Antonio police union faces calls for reform as 2 petitions circulate

Petitions aim to repeal government codes 143 and 174, which offer police protections, benefits

SAN ANTONIO – Two petitions by a group named Fix SAPD are circulating in an effort to repeal local laws that provide protections for police officers under investigation, protections that some claim enable police misconduct.

San Antonio female activist pushes for local repeal of laws that are seen as helping shield bad cops

“There is lack of accountability in our police system, and that’s what’s causing all these issues,” said Oji Martin, founder of Fix SAPD.

Martin said she reached her tipping point after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and after watching the KSAT special titled Broken Blue. The special found that between 2010 and 2019, two-thirds of SAPD officers who were fired ended up getting their jobs back.

“Allowing bad police officers to still wear that badge and still wear that uniform is actually a disservice to good police officers,” Martin said.

On Tuesday, Fix SAPD launched two petitions to repeal two local government codes -- 143, which gives officers certain protections when they are under investigation and the right to appeal any termination though an independent arbitrator, and 174, which allows for a collective bargaining agreement similar to a union contract.

“It’s actually sad because a lot of these issues we can resolve at the negotiating table,” said Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association.

Helle said he welcomes dialogue on ways to improve police and community relations. But he claims repealing the codes could have a detrimental impact on public safety because many officers would quit.

“If you remove the contract and you remove the pay and benefits, then they’re actually taking a massive pay cut,” Helle said.

Martin said repealing the codes doesn’t take away the police union’s ability to negotiate police salaries and pointed out that the government codes don’t protect airport police and park police. She said she feels the only SAPD officers who would quit are the ones with bad intentions.

“Call the city of Dallas, call the city of McKinney, Texas. They do not have (codes) 143 and 174. And I have yet to hear of officers going on strike,” Martin said.

The petitions will have to have tens of thousands of signatures, and only then will the possible repeals be put before San Antonio voters in the May 2021 election. In the meantime, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday that he’s calling on all candidates to pledge against any police budget cuts.