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San Antonio Police Union president denounces George Floyd killing, clears the air on officer accountability

Mike Helle said he was heartbroken about George Floyd's death. But he added it’s a misconception that police are killing people at will.

SAN ANTONIO — The nights are getting easier for San Antonio Police on the street. The fury of protesters is beginning to wane. Getting to that point has been challenging for officers. 

Protesters and rioters have called police everything from animals to murderers. Police were hit with water bottles and bricks. Officers assigned to keep the peace had to find their center to maintain a clear head in the chaos.

“There seems to be some underlying current that, well, police have no scrutiny of what we do,” Helle said. “(That) we're kind of running free willy out there, that we get to do anything we want to.”

Helle said nothing is further from the truth. He said citizens are afforded the right to file a complain against an officer, and they also have the right to protest.  

The union president is clear about what happened to Floyd.

“When things that happen in Minneapolis like that, it just breaks the heart of every policeman,” he said. “Because they all know that never, ever, ever should you be doing that—ever to a human being.”

Helle said if he were the now-deceased Houston native, he wouldn’t want a knee in his neck. 

But protesters’ rage haven't been limited to Floyd’s death. Rather, it's the string of officer-involved or controversial encounters ending with dead African-Americans.

In San Antonio, Charles "Chop" Roundtree was killed by San Antonio Police officer Steve Casanova in the fall of 2018. A Bexar County Grand Jury cleared the officer of shooting and killing the unarmed bystander.

Casanova claimed Roundtree’s friend, Davante Snowden, had a gun. He testified in a criminal court in a felony weapon case against Snowden that he saw a gun. A criminal jury did not agree. Snowden was acquitted.

Yet, Helle believes officers from their 2,300-plus membership are being unfairly targeted for the Minneapolis incident. He said San Antonio officers aren’t guilty of that.

“It’s not tolerated,” he said. “And if you treat people inhumanely and do those kinds of things to them...it’s certainly not anything that we’re going to as an organization condone.”

Of the assaults on officers during protests, he said he believes the offenders are outsiders.

Helle became union president in 2008. He has served five consecutive terms, but will be retiring from the SAPD; the union is set to elect a new president at the end of his term in January.  

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