City and police union still stuck on discipline with one contract negotiation session to go

No compromise in sight on reforming appeals process for fired cops; final bargaining session Monday

How much power should an arbitrator have to reinstate fired San Antonio police officers was a major topic of discussion Friday in the latest negotiation session between the city and the police union.

SAN ANTONIO – The city and police union continue to butt heads over how much power an arbitrator should have to reinstate fired San Antonio police officers.

The city’s goal to reform the appeals process and make it harder for fired cops to get their jobs back has been the biggest and stickiest issue of the ongoing contract negotiation. With just one scheduled negotiation session left on Monday, April 19, the two sides still haven’t found a compromise.

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The city wants the police chief’s decision to fire an officer to be given more deference during the appeals process, while the San Antonio Police Officers Association wants to ensure its members can effectively challenge what they think are unfair firings.

But achieving both goals in a way both sides will accept seems like a taller and taller order.

“We’re trying to have a fair outcome. You’re trying to fix the outcome by fixing it such that it’s almost virtually impossible to win,” the union’s lead negotiator, Ron DeLord, said, accusing the city team during a Friday negotiating session.

Donna McElroy, an outside attorney assisting the city, told DeLord they were concerned about fixing “the problem,” not “the outcome.”

“How does it fix the problems we’re having as a result of indefinite suspensions being overturned for officers who do not belong on the force?” McElroy said.

The city and union both have proposals on the table. The city’s would limit the conditions under which an arbitrator could overturn a firing, while the union’s would replace a single arbitrator with a panel of three.

Neither side is calling quits on the effort to find middle ground quite yet. The city and union can continue their negotiations beyond the initial 60-day window if they both agree to do so.

“We’re still talking,” said SAPOA’s negotiations committee chairman, Sgt. Chris Lutton, when KSAT asked if the two sides were at an impasse. “I mean, we’re coming to the end of the negotiating session, and we’ll have to decide that. But at this point, we’re making slow progress still.”

“I do think there is a path forward for purposes of us continuing discussion to be able to come to a process that accomplishes all of that. But we do have other tools,” said First Assistant City Attorney Liz Provencio.

About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.