San Antonio's police union overwhelmingly approved a new contract with the city, bringing the collective bargaining agreement one step closer to reality after a year of negotiations.
"This contract approval is the result of the hard work of our Contract Negotiation Team and City leadership focusing on delivering a fair contract to police officers that protects their pay and benefits and recognizes the uniquely challenging job of law enforcement," Danny Diaz, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association, said in a statement.
The contract still needs approval from City Council before it takes effect. A vote is scheduled for May 12. If given the green light, the agreement will run through September 2027.
Of the police union members who voted, 86 percent cast their ballot to approve the agreement. The other 13.6 percent voted against it, while one person abstained from voting.
In all, 1,573 members of the police union cast a vote.
Although the current agreement between the union and the city expired in September, it has remained in place under an evergreen clause. Both sides announced they had reached a tentative deal in early March.
Negotiations went notably smoother this time around than in previous years, when the dealmaking took more than two years of often contentious discussions, lawsuits and attack ads.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg, in a show of support, said the agreement meets the goals of both the city and the police union. He also referenced Diaz, the union's new leader, who is seen as having a smoother relationship with city officials than the past union president.
"It is a fair contract that addresses concerns about disciplinary procedures and provides our officers with fair compensation and benefits," Nirenberg said in a statement. "The officers' approval is a vote of confidence in the new association leadership."
Deputy City Manager María Villagómez, who led the city's negotiating team, focused on bolstering disciplinary measures for officers accused of misconduct.
Police unions have garnered attention nationally since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020. Activists pushing for police accountability have said unions have vast influence over the discipline process.
The city won some of the changes it sought in the tentative agreement.
"I am pleased that the San Antonio Police Officers Association ratified a tentative collective bargaining agreement that not only compensates our officers for the great work they do, but ensures the disciplinary process is fair, balanced and reflects the community's expectation that officers be held accountable for actions that undermine community trust," City Manager Erik Walsh said in a statement.
Under the new contract, police officers must be informed 24 hours before being questioned by internal affairs — down from 48 hours in the previous contract. The internal affairs unit investigates allegations of misconduct against police officers.
Villagómez said that change "allows us to schedule those interviews a lot quicker and be able to address that discipline in a more steady, fast manner."
During such an interview or interrogation, which is led by internal affairs staff, the officer involved is able to review statements, video recordings, audio recordings and photographs regarding the incident.
However, the officer won't be able to view statements or recordings from other officers being investigated — another key change from the last contract. Officers also aren't able to take copies of evidence or "home interrogatories" — written questions that police officers used to be able to take home and return at a later date.
The deal also gives the city more power to appeal an arbitrator's decision to district court.
Despite smoother negotiations, the contract still faces some pushback before it reaches City Council. Leaders with ACT 4 SA, a nonprofit group focused on police reform, have said they still want to see other issues addressed.
That includes additional adjustments to the discipline process and changes to the review board to offer more civilian oversight.
"I appreciate the San Antonio Police Officers Association for their willingness to work with us to set a new standard of what is possible when the City and the Union work together towards a greater goal," Walsh said.
Emilie Eaton contributed reporting.
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