Leading SA: City Manager Erik Walsh discusses police changes since George Floyd’s death, COVID-19 turning point

Walsh also talked about COVID-19 vaccinations and returning to pre-pandemic normalcy

SAN ANTONIO – In the wake of the death of George Floyd, we saw protests and calls for police reform around the country and here at home

San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh joined KSAT on Leading SA this weekend to explain what the last year has looked like.

“There was a lot of discussions with the mayor and the City Council and the police chief and I about what are the things that we need to be doing,” he said. “And last summer, there were a number of policies that the police chief enacted, things like no-knock warrants, we changed how we respond to some of our mental health calls, which we all know can turn violent or deadly.”

“But I think broadly, we started identifying kind of a rebalance of our own disciplinary system that was really needed to make changes from a long term perspective here,” Walsh said.

The city manager added that he wants to solidify the trust between the community and law enforcement.

“At the end of the day, we want the chief or the city to have final say when we have an officer that may be doing something inappropriate, either off duty or on duty. And, you know, long term, those types of acts kind of erode the trust that the public or the organization has in our own functions,” Walsh said.

And the city has been working with community stakeholders to get more input as well.

We just came off the heels last week of holding 27 community meetings to get input from the community ... And we’ll take a lot of that information and we will wrap it up into recommendations this summer,” Walsh said.

In terms of how the city stands against the pandemic, vaccination plans are at a turning point.

“You’re starting to see the city, WellMed and in the Health Science Center shift from mass vaccination efforts to efforts that are a little bit more customized to groups, churches, the fire departments set up at the airport the other day giving shots to folks who are coming in. So we’re we’re kind of decentralized,” Walsh said.

It is impressive how San Antonio has distributed the vaccines, but the job isn’t done.

We’ve got 62% of the population here in Bexar County (who) have had at least one shot, and we’re 48.9% fully vaccinated. And so I think it’s going to continue to be a real hard push. We want to make sure that we can get the vaccine to locations where people are at, and the goal will be to get that percentage as high as possible,” Walsh said.

As far as pre-pandemic lifestyle returning, it depends on where you go and who you interact with.

There’s a lot of pent-up demand. Downtown has been busy. Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld have been busy for the last month... The airport over the last week has seen its highest seven-day passenger rolling average than we’ve seen since 2019. So, yeah, there’s going to be a lot of travel,” he said.

“I think we all just need to continue to be aware. I think we need to continue to encourage people to get vaccinated,” Walsh said. “I think as long as we’re careful and you’re safe and you’re taking care of yourself and your family, and then hopefully we’re we’re out of the fog.”

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About the Author:

Max Massey is the GMSA weekend anchor and a general assignments reporter. Max has been live at some of the biggest national stories out of Texas in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs shooting, Hurricane Harvey and the manhunt for the Austin bomber. Outside of work, Max follows politics and sports, especially Penn State, his alma mater.