SAN ANTONIO — Two camps with opposite views are working harder than ever to win votes in a hard-fought campaign involving the police department.
Early voting started Monday for the May 1 city election, so both supporters and opponents of Proposition B are in the heat of an emotional battle for votes.
Proposition B is about changing the way the City of San Antonio negotiates contract provisions with police officers.
Ananda Tomas, who helped lead the petition drive that brought the issue to voters said “Voting yes for Prop B is about protecting good officers and holding bad officers accountable for their actions."
Tomas said voting yes gives citizens more options. “It's about having a voice in our contracts and moving to a system where we can still have great pay and great benefits for our officers, but we have a say on police discipline,” Tomas said.
Tomas said until changes are made in the process, not all San Antonians will be able to feel safe on the streets. “SAPD over the past ten years has killed 108 people in custody. We are the second-highest county in Texas for civilians that have been killed in custody by law enforcement and it's time for us to have a voice and change that,” Tomas said.
Alonzio Hardin, speaking for the San Antonio Police Officers Association, said while changes are needed “Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater."
Hardin said “Collective bargaining has been around since 1974 and through that time and until today collective bargaining has been the tool to not only recruit top notch officers but also to serve as a resource to ensure that best pay, composition. It's all about the composition package.”
Hardin said the collective bargaining agreement between the city and officers is much more complex than just disciplinary issues.
“Allow us to use the collective bargaining so that we can maintain the safety of our city, the morale, and camaraderie of our officers who get up every day, knowing that this could be their last.
During a press conference Friday, SAPD officers who were injured while on duty told their stories as part of the final police union push against Proposition B.
One of the stories came from Detective Michael Thorton who has been with the department for 13 years. He said he was helping a disabled motorist on I-35 when a drunk driver going 80 MPH crashed into him. He lost his leg after the incident.
More authorities spoke at the podium telling their stories, describing their incidents on duty and how the "pain doesn't stop."
"To take away all the incentives that make it a worthy job, that would just dismantle the department,” Hardin said, adding officers are concerned for their futures.
“Your officers are concerned that if they're going to lose all of their benefits, why stay in this city, or why stay as a police officer?" Hardin said.
Supporters say the disciplinary process for police officers is broken, and it is too easy for officers accused of misconduct to avoid consequences.
Tomas said “I think this is more important than ever. I mean the issue of police misconduct, police abuse, and brutality has been around for decades. Now there's a bigger focus on it. I think with social media, we're able to see it more. But I think folks just need to understand that this is not just happening in Minneapolis. This isn't just happening in Portland. This is happening here in San Antonio.”
Opponents say safety is at stake. They say the changes would likely mean fewer officers, slower response times, and more crime.
Here is a link to the website with more information in support of Proposition B.
This page has information from those who oppose Proposition B.
Early voting runs through April 27th. Election Day is Saturday May 1st. Click here for our KENS 5 Election Guide.