George Floyd’s murder while in the custody of the Minneapolis, Minn. Police Department ignited a wave of demonstrations across the world seeking justice, equity and reform.
San Antonians, too, have taken to the streets repeatedly to demand change. These demonstrations have been the most sustained public movement seeking reform on San Antonio’s streets in decades.
And the Black Lives Matter movement is making a difference. We have heard their calls, now we must listen and act.
We must use this moment to achieve significant progress, and we cannot afford to lose sight of the strong message being sent in San Antonio and across the United States. Black Americans are tired of a status quo that includes systemic prejudice.
During City Council’s informal “B session” on June 10, we learned that San Antonio is well on its way to addressing many of the proposals advocated by reformers around the nation. This is a good start, but we can’t rely on policing alone to supplement a lack of investment in our communities and our residents.
Though the San Antonio Police Officers Association’s collective bargaining agreement is restrictive, the contract should not be an excuse for inaction.
We must seek meaningful changes and provide for a foundation of material reform. The police contract’s disciplinary provisions tilt too far in favor of the officers.
I have asked my City Council colleagues to adopt a resolution ahead of the next San Antonio Police Officers Association collective bargaining agreement outlining our community’s priorities for officer disciplinary procedures and a healthier balance across our budget. The current police contract expires in September 2021, and the negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement will begin early next year.
This will ensure and clarify the community’s positions ahead of our next round of negotiations. The resolution is on this week’s City Council agenda.
We can’t afford to waste time or let the grass grow under our feet. Now is the time to make a stand and make the needed changes.
I am also requesting assistance from City Council committees in crafting a true public platform so that our city may move united toward a safer, more equitable future.
I have asked the Public Safety Committee, which I reconstituted this month, to review and finalize several policies sought by the community. I also requested that the panel review community policing programs, use of force policies and crowd dispersal tactics.
The Community Health and Equity Committee will evaluate best policing practices to help promote race and gender equity in our community and review mental health de-escalation measures.
Finally, I have asked the Intergovernmental Relations Committee to develop a robust legislative agenda that addresses public safety unions, qualified immunity and transparency in officer personnel records.
We must all commit to individual action towards a path of equal justice for all. We know there needs to be change, and I am committed to fixing a broken system. We can no longer tolerate injustice and inequality.
Ron Nirenberg is mayor of San Antonio.