Voters in Texas city to decide fate of police union

Every year, May 1 commemorates the struggles and gains of workers around the world. This year, International Workers’ Day will have added significance in San Antonio, where the city’s voters will decide that day the fate of the police union’s collective bargaining power.

The San Antonio Police Officers Association says on its website that its “singular focus” is to “preserve and protect the benefits” police officers have earned. Police accountability activists say that those benefits are too often used to protect officers who have engaged in misconduct, allowing them to stay on the SAPD.

Union denies allegations

John “Danny” Diaz, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association, denies that the union protects bad officers.

When asked on Texas Public Radio if the union-negotiated contract protected the officer in the so-called “feces sandwich” incident (an officer admitted giving a homeless man feces between two slices of bread), he said the contract wasn’t a factor. The officer in question initially eluded discipline because the incident report was “botched” Diaz said.

He pointed out that the officer “never returned to his job,” and was fired over a second incident – and that both incidents had been reported to the department by fellow officers.

Diaz said if voters repeal the union’s collective bargaining power, it will effectively kill off the union and hinder efforts to improve diversity on the police force.

Threat of early retirements

He said repeal might also trigger early retirements among some of the 600 officers currently eligible to retire with benefits. He said officers are afraid they’ll lose benefits and protections if voters side with “Fix SAPD,” the activist group that gathered more than 20,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

It should be noted that the city’s fire union’s collective bargaining powers will remain intact whatever the results of the May 1 election.

The city and police union recently began negotiating terms of the labor contract that ends in September. The contract covers matters such as pay, pensions, health care benefits and officer discipline.