Saturday, December 05, 2015

Raft of misconduct in San Antonio points to bigger problems in police contract

Police accountability politics in San Antonio are becoming increasingly layered, complex, and interesting. The local police union went all in for Leticia Van de Putte's mayoral campaign, only to see her swatted by GOP voters in northern San Antonio who backed Ivy Taylor, standing up to Alinskyite bullies.

Since then, the union walked away from collective bargaining negotiations because Mayor Taylor insisted on suing to get rid of an "evergreen" clause in the last contract which extends its terms for ten years if the parties can't agree on new ones.

Meanwhile, as street protests continued in October over the 2014 death of Marquise Jones, news arose last month that another man, who was severely beaten by police in 2014 when he was mistaken for a suspect while standing in front of his wife's business, was paralyzed from his injuries:
A man beaten by three San Antonio Police officers last year is paralyzed from the chest down after complications during surgery to repair his injured spine, his family confirmed to the KENS 5 I-Team.
Roger Carlos, 43, was paralyzed during surgery November 3 at a San Antonio area hospital.
Doctors have performed multiple surgeries on Carlos's neck and upper spine to relieve pain and pressure from herniated discs, following his May 2014 beating at the hands of two SAPD SWAT officers and a drug task force officer.
Notably, in that case, "A police discipline board recommended 15-day suspensions for all three officers. Chief William McManus, who did not respond to a request for interview ... later shortened each of the suspensions to five days." Moreover, "All three officers used accrued leave time instead of serving their suspensions." So, hardly any disciplinary action at all.

Less well publicized, but no less significant, in October, courts exonerated Carlos Flores after it was revealed that a SAPD officer in 2009 beat him while handcuffed. Flores was then charged with, and ultimately pled no contest to, assault on a public servant. The police department concealed from prosecutors evidence that the officer beat the handcuffed man and his supervisors all knew about it. (BTW, the lack of coverage on this case to me is inexplicable. This story wouldn't be overlooked if Eva Ruth Moravec or Michelle Mondo were still writing for the Express-News.)

On the county side, after video was released this summer of Bexar County Sheriff's deputies apparently shooting a man with his hands up, a deputy was arrested last month for aggravated sexual assault of a child, and the accompanying story mentioned that, "The sheriff's office also said of the now 14 deputies arrested this year, only three remain employed by BCSO." I don't know what's typical, but that sounds to this writer like an awful lot of deputies arrested for one 12-month span.

Debates surrounding San Antonio's police union contract have been strangely disconnected from police accountability issues, even as these stories of questionable shootings and serious misconduct swirl in the press at both the city and county level. The city has focused on seeking economic concessions from the union, and that alone has driven them away from the bargaining table. When the parties finally go back to the bargaining table, the city should get serious about strengthening the disciplinary process laid out in the contract.

A 2011 report from the Texas Civil Rights Project detailed 41 recommendations for addressing misconduct by SAPD officers, many of which probably couldn't be implemented under the terms of the meet-and-confer agreement. 

There are two possible scenarios. If city officials win their lawsuit disputing the antidemocratic "evergreen clause," they go back to the bargaining table with the leverage needed to open up that broader discussion. If they lose, they go back with almost no leverage. (No matter who wins now, the other party is almost certain to appeal.)

The union has made it clear they will just sit tight indefinitely since their evergreen clause locks in current disciplinary rules and benefits until September 30, 2024 unless overturned by the court.

And once a new contract is signed, there's no second bite at that apple for years, no matter how many terrible incidents surface or how much money the city has to dole out in lawsuit settlements.

Notably, the national Black Lives Matter campaign has created the Campaign Zero project designed to help people demand accountability in cities which have negotiated union contracts. Here in Texas, that fight will inevitably migrate to the Texas capitol in 2017 where most of the provisions originated that protect problem officers in civil-service cities like San Antonio.

RELATED: From The Atlantic (Dec. 7), "Black Lives Matter Takes Aim at Police Union Contracts."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unions were supposed to help LAWFUL employees, not serve as accomplices to violence, murder, and illegal activities. When they do, they are no better than the Mafia.