Police Union's Proposed Contract Looks To Whitewash Officers' Disciplinary Records

from the revisionist-history dept

Touched on briefly during our rundown of police unions demanding better pay for better behavior and accountability was the San Antonio Police Officers Association's (SAPOA) demand that the city should be willing to raise wages if it really expected its officers to perform their duties without veering into abuse or misconduct.

Part of what's keeping a deal from being struck between the city and the union is the amount of money on the table. This gives the union the appearance of holding the city's safety hostage until its demands are met. That may not be an entirely fair characterization (there's some "hostage-taking" on the other side as well), but there's something far more worrying in the proposed contract that's keeping this from being resolved.

The San Antonio police union wants changes to disciplinary procedures that would effectively whitewash past misconduct by officers. Michael Barajas, writing for the San Antonio Current, takes a close look at the controversial clause, and how it's likely to allow bad officers to not only stay employed longer, but possibly rise through the ranks as well.

At issue is the deal SAPOA and Mayor Ivy Taylor’s office negotiated this past summer to put an end to years of litigation over an evergreen clause in the union’s previous contract, which the city in court had argued was unconstitutional. Only recently, however, has police reform come to dominate discussions around the deal. As the Express-News first reported, Saldaña explained in an email to Taylor’s office last month why he wouldn’t vote on a negotiated contract that contained disciplinary procedures he called unacceptable.


Saldaña’s opposition to the agreement is rooted in disciplinary procedures outlined in Article 28 of the contract, which is set to go before council for approval next week. Under those rules, department officials and arbitrators hearing a case of officer misconduct won’t always get to consider an officer’s full disciplinary history when deciding what punishment to give. As it currently stands, if Chief William McManus wants to discipline an officer, he can’t cite as justification any drug- or alcohol-related violations more than 10 years old; infractions involving “intentional violence” only follow a cop for five years; any other disciplinary action only shows up for two years. If an officer is suspended for three days or less, the department, per the contract, automatically lowers the suspension to a “written reprimand” after a couple of years. Local activists calling for police reform say the policy amounts to government-sanctioned falsification of records.

The passage of time may alter perceptions, but it shouldn't be allowed to alter facts. That's what the union's proposal would do: rewrite disciplinary records after the fact. There will be no such thing as a "permanent record" for the city's officers. With enough years on the force, every disciplined officer will morph into someone better-behaved than they actually are.

Of course, union president Mike Helle thinks this is a perfectly acceptable way to handle misconduct issues. He claims this clause levels the disciplinary playing field. He wonders why a 10-year officer with a few minor infractions should be treated more harshly than a rookie with no prior incidents when punished for identical acts of misconduct.

It should go without saying (but apparently Helle actually needs to hear it) that those with more seniority should be screwing up less and should receive harsher punishments than those without as much experience. It's not as though the current disciplinary process prevents supervisors from considering multiple factors and exercising personal discretion when handing down punishments. Helle just wants to ensure that the longer someone's on the force, the more likely they are to escape severe punishment.

In practice, the union's suggested change would play out like this:

As Express-News columnist Brian Chasnoff wrote last week, Saldaña has seized on the case of one former SAPD officer convicted of raping a teenager on duty to highlight the disciplinary policy’s troubling implications. More than two years before Jackie Neal pleaded no contest to “improper sexual activity with a person in custody,” he was reprimanded for having sex with an 18-year-old high school student he was tasked with supervising in the department’s youth police explorer program. For that, he received a three-day suspension—which, if you follow the department’s disciplinary policies, would have been changed to a written reprimand by the time he was accused of pulling someone identified only as Jane Doe in court records over on the south side, handcuffing her and raping her in the back of his police SUV.

The officer ended up being convicted and having to surrender his peace officer's license. But what about those whose misconduct investigations are handled completely internally? If the union's plan was in place, the officer's file would have shown nothing more than a written reprimand -- hardly indicative of past issues with sexual misconduct.

Helle calls the councilman's opposition to the whitewashing clause the "tantrum" of a "spoiled child." But he glosses over the fact that the union is still threatening to hold its breath until it gets its way. Helle claims he can't change the clause without undoing current negotiations and possibly ending up in court. That seems unlikely to be the only outcome of removing the stipulation. Occam's Razor (and columnist Michael Barajas) says the union boss just doesn't want to remove the clause as it gives the union much more leverage when representing officers during disciplinary hearings.

What it doesn't do, however, is any favors for the public, which will be asked to pay the salaries of bad officers and underwrite the retconning of their permanent records.

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Filed Under: accountability, police, police unions, records, transparency

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  1. icon
    Padpaw (profile), 7 Sep 2016 @ 2:55pm

    Someone is behind all this, I just cannot think it is all a coincedence the police are trying to make people rise up against their corruption this blatantly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    scott moore, 7 Sep 2016 @ 2:58pm

    Get rid of ALL police unions and make them privatized.

    When official misconduct occurs and the department gets sued it will only be a matter of time before that office is fired due to a hit on the bottom line.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Jeremy2020 (profile), 7 Sep 2016 @ 3:06pm


    This doesn't play out in reality. Those in charge of firing them end up with some sort of vested interest in ensuring that company keeps a contract.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2016 @ 3:09pm

    Make it a law that all officers have malpractice insurance. When they can't get insurance anymore they are no longer allowed to be a cop.

    This would help with the thug cops. The higher level corruption that allows this, in certain departments, would still have to be dealt with.

    I am starting to believe a lot of government likes having a brutal police force to deal with the 'undesirables'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2016 @ 3:26pm

    I read online that the union says. just pass this now and we can revise the punishment clause later. Sure that will happen, not!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2016 @ 3:28pm

    Change and Forgiveness

    I believe in change and forgiveness. How can you know if someone has changed or not if you have lied to yourself. This is an important point for officer promotions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), 7 Sep 2016 @ 3:39pm

    First off this is starting to get to the point of ridiculous the protections Law Enforcement seems to think they deserve unequivocally and there should be no questions asked.

    The fact that Law Enforcement already has several laws and statues that can be used criminally not to mention the immunity protections that are in place (yet can be disqualified by a court depending on the circumstances ) has been sufficient for years, that was until video equipment in surveillance cameras, body cams and dash cams, mobile phones, hand held video cameras, Go Pro type units etc have brought the misdeeds by police to the forefront and out to the public.

    Law Enforcement personnel's word for what they say transpired in an event carries a lot of weight with the courts and within an investigation and if it is an accused persons word or a citizens word of their view of what transpired in an Law Enforcement event where wrong doing is alleged, whose word usually gets taken as gospel.... Law Enforcement!

    If you some person accused of a crime and you believe your innocent and protest that to the law Enforcement agency and police you are dealing with, your word means squat! It will be the Officers word against yours, and their word is king.

    It is up to the citizen to prove their innocent, the premise of your innocent until proven guilty dies a painful death long ago. Now it is more a case of your guilty unless you can prove your innocent.

    Even though the courts say you can video tape Law Enforcement in their duties in a public area as long as you are not impeding them and are doing so safely, Law Enforcement knows that is the law but yet chooses to try intimidation and/or threats of arrest on what ever charge they seem to think fits the narrative to violate your rights.

    How many times have stories come out in the last dozen years questioning Law Enforcement's version of events of an incident? There has been quite a few and this trend has been on the increase due to the public taking a proactive stance to pull out and video something they see involving the Police. Now think about how many interactions the police have with the public in a day, in just one state, and then think about it across the U.S., I doubt the police are called on the carpet about 1% of out of all the interactions they have in a day across a city or a state or even the country.

    The tables have always been tilted in Law Enforcement favour when dealing with public, Law Enforcement has a wide range of protections for it's members in the criminal code and in state law. The deck has always been stacked in Law Enforcement favor and the public has always bore the brunt of that when complaining about a violation of their rights or being falsely accused of a crime.

    If it wasn't for technological advances with various video capabilities the field would still be tilted to Law Enforcement advantage as it is right now. The courts take Law Enforcemnts word over yours most of the time and when the police are investigating themselves, the tables are still tilted the officers way.

    Do Law Enforcement officials get wrongly accused of things, sure they do. DO they take some serious shit out there, yes they do. Do they have to go into the path of danger, yes they do. I am no law enforcement hater, but I do believe that just because you have a gun and a badge does not make you immune from breaking the law nor immune form punishment for it.

    Law Enforcement associations are pushing for more and more "protections" from the public in the course of their duties, as with people video taping them and the ability to arrest those doing so. There are bills before several state assemblies being pushed by Law Enforcement association lobbyists seeking to get that type of legislation passed.

    Some Law Enforcement agencies refuse to release details on an indecent where an officer has been punished and discipline has been handed down and this includes what the punishment was and the officers name and when this punishment took place. Texas is one state that is notorious for this and even though FOIA requests have been filed those requests are usually turned down,

    Law Enforcement unions and associations wield a lot of power and they use that power to protect their members good and bad. The fact that more and more Law Enforcement associations/ Unions are trying to shield their members disciplinary records fro seeing the light of day and pushing to expunge those records is alarming in my mind.

    Bad enough that some officers who are accused of a serious crime can still be paid for months and years till a matter reaches a conclusion is stunning enough. Honestly what is next. A weeks vacation in Hawaii for every citizens right that violated, a trip to Disneyland for every wrongful conviction.

    Law Enforcement officers are entitled to their benefits, but when it comes to the disciplinary end of the scale and the protections they already have, the field is getting way to tilted in Law Enforcement favor and the public is still up against it.

    The public needs to have confidence in the process that when Police/Law Enforcement do wrong they will be held to the same standards that a citizen would be, and this is far from the case and it is why the public is more and more aware of the encounters with Law Enforcement and why people believe there is way too much power in the hands of Law Enforcement when it comes to policing their own and why the public is losing confidence in that process and that's because it has and is still abused and broken

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2016 @ 5:16pm

    I'm pro-union, but given their role in union-busting I don't think police should be able to unionize.

    What it doesn't do, however, is any favors for the public, which will be asked to pay the salaries of bad officers and underwrite the retconning of their permanent records.

    Relax, Tim. It used to be fair to say that your taxes pay for police salaries, but they've got that covered through asset forfeiture now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Walid Damouny (profile), 7 Sep 2016 @ 5:52pm

    Equal Under the Law

    The ridiculous request here is that police unions area asking that police officers be treated different from other citizens. Criminal records on citizens shouldn't be different for the police. People are people. If a 5, 10, whatever years passed on a crime committed by a citizen then it would be recorded. The same should apply to the police or the president or the senator or the doctor or the janitor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2016 @ 6:45pm


    Someone is behind all this

    The Electorate. If we really cared we would do something. Every time we sit on our ass when they get away with welp... fucking murder... then it is our fault!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2016 @ 7:22pm

    Let me check I read this right: The police want to be paid to do the right thing? Isn't this basically a variant of Mafia standover tactics? "That's a nice looking shop you got there... be a shame if something happened to it."

    If this works, I'm going to try the same tactic on my employer. Pay rise or I'm going to start breaking things. We'll see how well that goes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Padpaw (profile), 7 Sep 2016 @ 9:44pm


    I am more worried about letting people that torture and murder unarmed unresisting citizens get away with that being stricken from their records

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Padpaw (profile), 7 Sep 2016 @ 9:45pm


    only if you have a gun and a badge to hide behind

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2016 @ 1:08am

    "Helle calls the councilman's opposition to the whitewashing clause the "tantrum" of a "spoiled child." But he glosses over the fact that the union is still threatening to hold its breath until it gets its way."

    The audacity. The fact that Helle isn't even ashamed to propose such a clause shows how spoiled he has been this entire time.

    I've said this before and I'll say it again. Police should not be held to a lower standard than the rest of us. If anything they should be held to a higher standard. They shouldn't be allowed to get away with misconduct or with breaking the law any more than the rest of us and they shouldn't face any less punishment.

    They also shouldn't be less likely to be criminally investigated for misconduct and it shouldn't take a greater degree of evidence to convict them of a crime than it would take any normal citizen.

    Police officers should also receive traffic tickets and punishment when caught breaking traffic laws no less than the rest of us. To give you an idea of how spoiled police are and how much of a tantrum they throw when they are held to the same standard as the rest of us, because they are just so used to being held to a much lower standard, see the following video.


    A good on duty police officer went after a bad off duty police officer for badly breaking traffic laws and trying to get away in a chase. Just because he was a police officer she did not let him off the hook at all.

    Well, what happened to her after the fact? She got harassed, big time.

    Upon investigating the harassment she found

    "88 law enforcement officers from 25 different agencies accessed Whatts' driver's license information more than 200 times".

    They were apparently trying to see where she lives. This is against the law being they had absolutely no valid and legal reason to look up this information.

    If this isn't an indication of a systematic problem then I don't know what is. 88 corrupt police officers across 25 (presumably) nearby agencies accessing her file more than 200 times is a systematic problem and the fact that this would happen indicates just how used to cops are with getting away with breaking the law that when they don't get away with it for once such a huge number of cops make such a huge deal out of it. Spoiled brats.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    me@me.net, 8 Sep 2016 @ 4:36am

    You no longer need the Mafia

    You have police unions for that

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 8 Sep 2016 @ 6:57am

    Re: You no longer need the Mafia

    To the contrary, this is exactly how mafias get started.

    Modern police forces are not the first time those with authority have developed a taste for unwarranted brutality. In fact, our declaration of independence indicts King George for allowing it to go on too long in the colonies.

    The mafia's first service to the people has been protection from a rampaging guard service. That whole bit with making booze was a side-gig.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Padpaw (profile), 8 Sep 2016 @ 7:20am


    I thought she ended up being fired in the end for having the audacity to try and hold a fellow cop responsible for his actions instead of ignoring his lawbreaking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    John, 8 Sep 2016 @ 3:29pm

    Police misconduct records

    You can't "scrub" a disciplinary record because of federal (and some states) court decisions - Henthorn and Giglio - that require evidence of misconduct to be disclosed to the defense. If an officer is caught lying, stealing, or any activity that puts his credibility at risk, the government has to disclose that on request so the jury can consider it. Some federal agencies will fire an employee who can't testify anymore because of a Henthorn problem. Others (looking at you, DEA) may move the agent to another region or position in the agency where testimony isn't required. Henthorn doesn't specify how far back the conduct occurred, only that it did and it affects credibility.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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