SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Police and Fire departments are looking to boost their ranks in the upcoming budget year -- especially SAPD.
Under the proposed city budget, SAPD would get 78 new uniform positions for a total of 2,581. Meanwhile, SAFD’s firefighter and EMS positions would rise to 1,795 with the addition of 21 new spots.
The fire positions are broken into 15 positions for a new platform truck out of Fire Station 45 near Sea World and six for a medical responder team out of Fire Station 24 on Austin Highway.
The new police positions are split between 28 supervisory positions at the St. Mary’s Street substation, which is expected to be completed in January 2024, and 50 to focus on violent crime prevention strategies as determined by a UTSA study, which the city expects to receive a draft of in the fall.
The latter group of patrol positions is meant to be partially funded with a federal grant, though SAPD Chief William McManus said the city could pay for 38 of them on its own out of the money meant for the grant cash match.
“It will not be one team. They’ll be distributed throughout the city because there will be certain areas throughout the city that we will be focusing on for a variety of reasons,” McManus said.
The city aims to keep the combined police and fire budgets of the general fund to under 66% of the general fund as a whole. With city revenues, including federal relief dollars, pouring into city coffers, that proportion is at 60.7% in the proposed FY 2023 budget.
SAPD is also awaiting a study on staffing levels that’s expected to be completed in early 2023.
Speaking to council members at a budget work session Tuesday, McManus said, with the exception of 2020, the city’s emergency calls have been trending upwards.
The police chief also said the city has seen a 12.3% increase in overall crime compared to the 2021 numbers.
The crime statistics McManus presented were based on the FBI’s new crime statistics system -- National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). They are not yet posted on the city’s website, which only shows the statistics for 2011 to 2021 under the now-defunct Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system.
District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo contrasted the proposal to add officers before the UTSA study recommendations come in, against the delayed expansion of a pilot program for alternative responses to mental health calls.
SA CORE, as it’s known, started in April 2022 and currently operates out of the Central Substation. The results of the multidisciplinary response team are expected to be evaluated after it finishes in March 2023.
The budget proposal includes $2 million for its expansion.
“I’m concerned with delaying expanding public safety models, which are working well, but we continue to spend money on the same old solutions, right? That when we look at the data we’re seeing -- what we’re seeing, it’s not producing the solutions that we’re hoping it does, right? And I think it’s irresponsible,” Castillo said.
The city council is expected to vote on a budget on Sept. 15.