SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Police Department is changing its policies on how officers respond to mental health calls and prohibiting the use of no-knock warrants after Police Chief William McManus issued new orders on Friday.
“The decision to revise these policies was made to better protect our officers and the public,” McManus stated in a news release. “The newly established Escalated Mental Health Crisis Protocol’s objective provides officers with a way to help an individual who is need of mental health assistance. This new protocol aims to deescalate situations and equip officers with the tools needed in the field to protect lives.”
City Manager Erik Walsh said he supports the chief’s new orders.
“Over the course of the next few months, we’ll continue to work with the community and evaluate SAPD’s programs, policies and call response to align with best practices,” Walsh said.
The city said in its news release that McManus had suspended the use of no-knock warrants for search and arrest warrants in June.
A no-knock warrant is issued by a judge and allows law enforcement to enter a property without knocking or ringing a doorbell.
It’s gained attention in recent months after a no-knock warrant was used during a raid in Kentucky that resulted in police shooting Breonna Taylor.
“Thank you to the community for making their voices known and truly asking us to review policies in full detail,” said District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews Sullivan, who submitted a Council Consideration Request to discontinue no-knock warrants by SAPD. “By discontinuing “no knock” warrants we are saving lives of both the public and our officers.”
The city said Procedures 503, entitled Obtaining and Executing Arrest Warrants, and Procedures 504, entitled Execution of Search Warrants, have been revised as follows:
- Prohibits officers from applying for or participating in the service of “no knock” search warrant entries
- Prohibits officers from applying for or participating in the service of “no knock” arrest warrants.
- Prohibits entry into premises when serving high-risk warrants and requires the use of alternative strategies to include setting up a perimeter and encouraging the individual being sought to surrender.
The new mental health protocol will be used for mental health crisis calls that involve violent acts or the presence of weapons, the city said.
The city’s new protocol includes the following provisions:
- The Communications Unit will try to determine if a service call is a mental health crisis involving weapons or violence. If an Escalated Mental Health Crisis Call exists, the dispatcher will dispatch a supervisor to the scene.
- The responding officer will coordinate with the assigned supervisor and will try to contact the complainant to gather as much information as possible prior to the supervisor’s arrival. If an Escalated Mental Health Crisis Call exists, then the SAPD Mental Health Unit Supervisor will dispatch the SAPD Mental Health team to respond to the location.
- Responding officers will not approach the person in crisis, unless the person initiates contact or there is a life-threatening situation. Officers are instructed to evaluate the situation and to be prepared to take appropriate measures to protect themselves and others. Officers are also instructed to conduct interviews of relatives, friends, neighbors or others that can provide useful information.
SAPD’s new plan follows a public outcry in the wake of the shooting death of Damian Lamar Daniels by a Bexar County Sheriff’s deputy last month. Bexar County commissioners also announced a new program Thursday to create a new mental health response unit on the county level.
If you need more information about the new protocols, visit SanAntonio.gov/SAPD.