SAN ANTONIO – On Saturday night, the San Antonio Police Department responded to at least four shootings across San Antonio.
Police Chief William McManus responded to one of those on the South Side, where officers shot and killed a 46-year-old suspect.
“He was armed with a knife,” McManus said. “Witnesses said there was a confrontation and officers had to use deadly force.”
These shootings come in a month already marked with five SAPD officers shot in a span of two weeks. With the passing of City Council’s $3.7 billion spending plan for Fiscal Year 2024 this past week, more staff is budgeted for SAPD.
The budget allows for SAPD to add 105 police officers, marking this the single largest increase to the department in more than 20 years. But that’s not the only item in the budget involving SAPD.
During budget talks this past summer, council members strongly favored expanding the city’s mental health response. Now, in the budget for the upcoming year, they’re adding more funding to help achieve this around the clock.
“We need to increase the number of officers who can help,” Karen Falks, the assistant chief of police at SAPD, said regarding the citywide mental health response.
The budget allows for the San Antonio Community Outreach and Resiliency Effort, or SA CORE, to work 24/7. They’re a team made up of a trained police officer, an SAFD paramedic and a licensed mental health clinician to respond to mental health crises.
Right now, the team works two shifts, covering 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day.
“Right now, we know when the peak times are and we want to make sure we have people here for those peak times,” Falks said. “We’re a very large city and unfortunately, we see a lot of mental health issues. And so we could use more, more officers in the Mental Health Unit.”
Falks said the department is looking to expand its Mental Health Unit, but in the meantime, the force is working to train all of its officers on mental health response. This will take three years to complete.
“We need more officers in the mental health unit,” Falks said. “We will eventually get there.”