SAN ANTONIO — A fired Bexar County Sheriff's Office sergeant lost his bid to be reinstated to the force this week, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Thursday.
Sergeant Hugh Wesley Anderson was terminated in March 2019 and requested an independent arbiter review his firing to potentially overrule Sheriff Javier Salazar's decision to terminate him.
The decision comes nearly two years after the incident for which Anderson was fired. County records state Anderson punched a man in the face in the parking lot of an H-E-B on August 25, 2018. According to disciplinary records, the incident happened after the victim allegedly nearly struck Anderson's vehicle, prompting Anderson to block the driver in and confront him.
Suspension records state during the confrontation, Anderson punched the driver in his face. According to records, San Antonio Police obtained surveillance video of the incident which confirmed Anderson punched the driver in the face.
Online records show Anderson was not charged in connection with the incident. Salazar said he was told that the individual whom Anderson is alleged to have punched did not cooperate with police.
"I think for too long in this agency, the administrative cases have been allowed to hinge on the criminal cases,” Salazar said. "In other words, if it doesn't happen criminally, then the administration side — maybe it will go easier. I don't agree with that.”
Salazar said while the incident didn’t result in criminal charges, his investigators were able to compile enough evidence to prove that the alleged assault rose to the level of termination.
“We had a videotaped assault. We had evidence of that assault. We had pictures of the complainant — his face appeared swollen. And we had a statement taken that day, where he indicated that he was punched,” he said. "To me, that's a pretty strong administrative case."
Salazar moved to terminate Anderson in March 2019. Anderson's case went before an arbitrator in July, who had the power to overturn Salazar's decision but sided with Salazar and Bexar County.
The issue of arbitration has come to the forefront of a national discussion on accountability in law enforcement. In some cases, an arbitrator will reinstate a law enforcement officer whom the chief administrator of the agency has sought to terminate for misconduct, effectively allowing an officer to continue to wear the badge, sometimes with back pay, despite the alleged misconduct.
“I don't think that an arbitrator is as qualified to make a decision based upon what I'm seeing here as a law enforcement leader with all things considered here locally,” Salazar said. “An arbitrator doesn’t necessarily even live in this state. So they don’t have to live with allowing somebody that maybe shouldn't be wearing this uniform to continue patrolling the streets of our county. They don't have to live with that decision. We do. My citizens do. My two million employers here in the county have to live with those consequences."
Proponents of arbitration have said it takes local politics out of firing decisions.
“I understand how the public is clamoring for more accountability, they're calling for more accountability on the part of law enforcement officers, both for on duty and off duty conduct,” Salazar said. "That's something that's near and dear to my heart. This case illustrates that perfectly.”
KENS 5 has requested the arbiter’s opinion which contains the basis for their decision in the matter. The Sheriff’s Office has not yet provided those documents.