SAN ANTONIO – This week, the city and union negotiators reached a tentative deal to cover officers for the next four and a half years.
There were compromises on both sides, but overall Ananda Tomas, executive director of Act 4 SA, said this is a step in the right direction.
“In the 1980s, we gave SAPOA the whole store,” Tomas said. “Since then, we have been fighting to win at least share ownership of that store shelf by shelf, aisle by aisle. This is a win in terms of winning back another aisle.”
The new potential contract came with changes in key areas. Tomas says discipline is a big one.
“The inclusion of an officer’s past record into not only consideration for discipline but also to arbitration is a huge win for the community for us,” Tomas said.
The contract limited the powers of arbitration, which in the past has allowed fired SAPD officers to get their jobs back.
Now an arbitrator can only overturn a firing if the police chief doesn’t establish that conduct would make the entire department look bad or that “law and sound community expectations” would be seen as a good reason to fire them.
While Tomas is happy with this step, she doesn’t think it’s good enough.
“We also have just seen with our sheriff’s contract that they removed the arbitrator altogether and now appeals move to the Civil Service Commission,” Tomas said. “And that is absolutely something we could have done with this contract as well. That used to be the pathway for appeals before outside arbitrators were brought into this.”
“We accomplished the two things that we set out to do. One, which was a fair contract and two, which we had due process for the officers,” Danny Diaz, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association, said.
Diaz is happy with how negotiations turned out and is ready to begin the process of explaining the changes to members.
“We are coming out to our membership and then once we do that and God willing, everything works out and we ratify this contract,” Diaz said.
Before it’s ratified, city council and SAPOA need to sign off on the contract.
Tomas said she can’t predict if everyone will give it the green light, but she hopes there’s a discussion about changes to civilian oversight that were not included in this contract.
“At one point, the civilian review board, known as the CARB, was actually on the list of priorities for the city, but it fell off before they finalized their terms. I don’t know why this happened,” Tomas said.
She hopes the community who said they wanted changes to the civilian review board included in the contract will reach out to their city counselors. Even if it’s not included this time, she hopes it’s on the record when contract negotiations come up again in 2026.
In this new contract, there was no change to the evergreen clause, which keeps the contract’s terms in place even after it expires. Though officers’ pay is frozen during that time.
As it stands in the current contract, the evergreen clause is staying at eight years. Tomas wishes it were reduced.
“We need to reduce this to give incentive for both parties to negotiate, come to an agreement quicker, be able to give concessions quicker, but also not wait for a more favorable political climate,” Tomas said.
Finally, the length of the contract itself. As it stands now, the contract is four and a half years.
Tomas wishes that the time frame would be reduced down to three years or even two because of the evergreen clause and time to negotiate after it is expired.
“A negotiation could take anywhere from one to three to four years. So you are really literally only getting a once in a decade chance to get any type of reform to our contract, and that’s frankly just not soon enough for the community,” Tomas said.
Overall, she thinks this new contract is the best she’s seen since the 1980′s but by no means is it “enough.”
“Since we gave away everything in the 1980s, I think we are there, but I don’t want to say that it’s still a contract we should agree on yet. I think we can push further,” Tomas said.