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Councilwoman proposes polygraph tests to weed out racist police

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, City Council "B" Session June 10, 2020/Screenshot-COSA Video.

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – A San Antonio City Councilwoman is recommending polygraph tests to keep racists out of the police department.

“We would ask that current and future recruits be vetted and polygraphed for racist ideology and discrimination,” said Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran.

She also suggested using lie-detectors on current police officers.  Viagran brought up the idea at Wednesday’s city council “B” session during a discussion of the San Antonio Police Department’s training and disciplinary policies.

She also asked Police Chief William McManus why officers used pepper balls and fired rubber and wooden bullets at protesters last week.

“Because there was property destruction and officers were being pelted with bottles and bricks,” answered the chief.

She said she was especially concerned after a protester in Austin was seriously injured when he was struck in the head by a “less lethal round.”

“They’re supposed to be fired at a certain distance and are required to be fired below the waist,” McManus explained.  “Hopefully, we don’t ever have to use them again, but if in fact they are, the order to use those weapons, the instruction to use those weapons, will have to come from me.”

Mayor Ron Nirenberg commended the chief for clarifying who will give the orders.

“This is all about, at every level, about accountability, so that is a welcome change,” said Nirenberg.

McManus also told the council that the  department “meets in substance” the “Eight Can’t Wait” initiatives created by Campaign Zero.  Topping the list of 8 police reforms is banning chokeholds and strangleholds, which McManus says they did away with several years ago. However, there is one exception.

“Only in a situation where deadly force would be permissible.  Other than that, chokeholds and strangleholds are off limits,” said McManus.

Another one of the “Eight Can’t Wait” initiatives would ban shooting at moving vehicles.  The chief says the local policy prohibits shooting at a moving vehicle unless it’s to protect an officer or another person.  He doesn’t agree on a total ban on shooting at a moving vehicle because doing so would prevent officers from neutralizing a driver who intentionally drives into a crowd.

Campaign Zero’s “Eight Can’t Wait,” which are being looked at by police departments all across the country, also require a warning before shooting, require deescalation, exhaust all other means before shooting, duty to intervene, require the use-of-force continuum, and report use of force.

The council also discussed the San Antonio Police Officers Association contract, which is set to expire in September of 2021.  The chief says the collective bargaining agreement makes it difficult for him to terminate an officer for wrongdoing.

“State law and collective bargaining contracts protect bad officers,” said McManus, adding that local and state officials need to push for changes.

“We need to push that as hard as we can.  The time for that to happen is now,” he said.

Some members of city council also discussed the idea of taking money from the police budget and using it for mental health services, domestic violence prevention and other services.


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