After two years of often frustrating wrangling back and forth–the San Antonio City Council gives a final thumbs up to a new five-year contract agreement with the City’s police union.
“All officers will receive a 17% wage increase over five years” City Manager Sheryl Sculley told Council ahead of the vote, also pointing out officers will begin taking on at least some of the burden of healthcare costs.
“Officers would pay no monthly healthcare premiums for themselves–but, would pay premiums for their dependants under one of the two healthcare plans offered” Sculley said.
The agreement will insure public safety costs can remain below 66% of the City’s total budget for at least the next three years–and potentially longer pending what kind of a deal can be reached with the firefighters union. San Antonio Police Officers Association President Mike Helle said the deal is a result of a lot of compromise on both sides.
“This contract is a shared sacrifice, and together, we will be protecting the financial future of our community” Helle said.
But, critics and opponents continued to raise their voices until the final vote was taking.
“Because of the lack of transparency and accountability, I can not support this contract” one activist told Council, pointing to what many see as shortfalls in the ability under the contract to hold officers responsible for their actions.
“How do all lives matter when the police union lives matter more?” Rhett Smith asked.
Councilmen Ron Nirenberg and Rey Saldana followed through on promises to vote against the deal.
“I know this contract is not going to protect bad behavior–but, it will protect it” Saldana warned.
Contract supporters however painted the deal as a starting point when it comes to accountability for officers.
“Yes, we have to deal with those issues–but, suggesting that we de-fund the police department is not a realistic solution to those issues” Mayor Ivy Taylor said. The Mayor believes the City is already off to a good start on such issues, using the body camera program and more.
“We are already making positive changes now” Taylor said.
The union President even spoke directly to those who raised concerns over accountability.
“We will listen to you, and we will stand beside you, and we will learn about how you feel about this department… I promise you, we will” Helle said.
Other contract supporters–including Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales–said it is time now to move forward–and put the rhetoric surrounding the contract talks in the past.
“Our police force can now hire more officers, we can put patrols back on our streets–we can dedicate our tax dollars to things that matter most to you all” Gonzales said.