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San Antonio Police union agrees to new contract with city

City leaders say the deal bolsters disciplinary procedures for officers accused of misconduct. It would also make SAPD Texas's second-highest paid police force.

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Police Officers Association members voted, 1358-214, to ratify a new contract with the city that bolsters disciplinary procedures for officers accused of misconduct. 

The deal still requires city council approval, though Mayor Ron Nirenberg endorsed the plan Tuesday. 

“This is an agreement that achieves the objectives of the city and the police officers association," he said. "It is a fair contract that addresses concerns about disciplinary procedures and provides our officers with fair compensation and benefits."

Negotiation spanned 33 meetings over more than a year. Stakeholders hailed the amicable tenor during the conversations, unlike prior collective bargaining talks. 

"Things are different," SAPOA president Danny Diaz said Tuesday. "We're moving forward and we're making change." 

Diaz assumed his role just 11 days before the first meeting between the city and the union. 

“The officers’ approval is a vote of confidence in the new association leadership," Nirenberg said.

In a major change, the new deal narrows a third-party arbitrator's ability to reinstate fired officers. Now, the Chief of Police must only demonstrate "substantial shortcomings" to indefinitely suspend a member of the force. 

The proposed contract defines these shortcomings as "a violation or conduct which renders the Officer’s continuance in office in some way detrimental to effective law enforcement and the needs of the Department, or which the law and sound community expectations recognize as good cause for depriving the Officer of his/her position."

The chief would also have a longer window to discipline an officer for misconduct, though no member of the department could be punished for something that happened more than two years prior. 

"The city leadership incorporated accountability measures to continue building the best police department in the United States," Diaz said. 

San Antonio would also boost police officers' pay to Texas's second-highest rate. Only Austin police officers would earn more. 

Department employees would get 3.5 percent base pay raises in April 2023 and again in April 2024. Those workers would get a 4 percent raise in April 2025 and April 2026. 

A month after the council signs off on the deal, officers would also get a bonus worth 2 percent of their 2021 compensation.

The union initially asked for more money. 

"In negotiations, no one gets what they all want, right?" Diaz said. 

The contract also bumps mandatory training for officers from 80 hours to 120 hours each year. 

Despite securing a number of changes that police reform activists called for, Act 4 SA executive director Ananda Tomas says her organization will lobby city councilmembers to reject the agreement. 

Tomas says the deal is better than any prior contract, but that "we should always strive for the best."

She contends the city's Complaint and Administrative Review Board, which recommends action to the Chief of Police in officer misconduct cases, is not truly independent because its structure and authority is subject to collective bargaining. 

"There's nothing we can do to amend it, to give it more power, to diversify it, or to add seats to it if it's something included in contract negotiations," she said.

She'll push councilmembers to remove the review board from the contract's purview. 

Act 4 SA previously backed a proposition that would've restricted SAPOA's ability to collectively bargain.

"We were able to win a lot more than we originally anticipated (in the deal)," Tomas said. "That's literally because of the community pressure that Proposition B and Act 4 SA is continuing to put on the police union." 

Diaz maintains support for the proposition, which failed by 3,500 votes, did not influence negotiations. 

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