Community activists pushing to ‘defund' police now turn their attention toward police reform

‘We’re asking to get rid of bad cops, not good cops,' activist says

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio community activists who spent the summer marching and speaking out at San Antonio City Council meetings asking leaders to cut funding to police are feeling deflated after the city council on Thursday approved a nearly $486.5 million police budget for FY 2021.

While the city increased the police budget by about $7 million to pay for salary increases and health care costs, leaders said about 79% of the budget is tied to the collective bargaining agreement and cannot be cut.

Pharaoh Clark of Reliable Revolutionaries was expecting a better outcome. Activists wanted the police budget to be cut and funds to be allocated to community programs.

“Today was a blatant disrespect to the people," Clark said. "And it showed the people of San Antonio that the city council would prefer to focus their budget on policing while they maintain that it’s OK to cut budgets from the food bank, cut budgets from after school programs, cut budgets for senior programs.”

Josey Garcia, a member of the group, said the vote by council stings following the death of another person at the hands of police this week.

“It’s disheartening, especially since one of our very own community activist, Celeste Brown, lost her godfather to being shot by SAPD just two days ago,” she said.

Darrell Zemault Sr., 55 was shot by police Tuesday. According to Police Chief William McManus, Zemault was shot after he grabbed the service weapon from an officer. Eight people have been killed by SAPD this year.

The attention for activists now turns to next year’s budget, but primarily to the October 2021 contract negotiations involving the city and San Antonio Police Officers Association.

“Some of these laws that are in the collective bargaining agreement that specifically tie the city’s hands when it comes to be inflexible with the budget," Clark said. "Those are certain things that we’re going to be looking at and expect to be on the table. What we’re asking for is accountability in the police department and transparency in the police department. We’re asking to get rid of bad cops, not good cops,” he said.

Michael Helle, president of SAPOA, emailed a statement to KSAT on Thursday acknowledging that Reliable Revolutionaries and other groups are preparing to wage battle against the union.

“Having lost the fight on the city budget, these groups are now gearing up for a larger battle -- to repeal our civil service and collective bargaining rights. The City Council and the people of San Antonio should make no mistake: this “repeal” movement is just one more way to defund police!,” he said.

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