police reform efforts
SAPD Chief focuses on police reform efforts
BY EMILY BAUCUM/FOX SAN ANTONIO WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20TH 2016
SAN ANTONIO - The top brass at the San Antonio Police Department are working with leaders in Washington, D.C., on a mission they're calling police reform.
Chief William McManus says the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson showed that the public is demanding more transparency and accountability from police departments, and he says he's listening.
When a man was killed in a rolling shootout out on the city's east side last week, police contacted leaders at Eastwood Community Baptist Church. The church is located a few blocks away from the crime scene.
"This chief and the sheriff have probably visited this community more than anybody ever has," Tommy Gregory says.
He's vice president of the Ministers and Citizens Alliance.
"It's an organization that was started because of the crime that was going on in our community," Gregory says.
He says there's no one solution to fighting crime, but a priority is working with police.
"In the mind of the community, the first thing they think of when the policeman comes: they're coming to arrest me, harass me," Gregory says.
Chief McManus says developing trust is key to the police reform mission.
"Treat people right," he says. "And when you treat people right, they grant you the legitimacy that you need to do your job. And that's not what happened in Ferguson. That's not what happened in Baltimore. That's not what happens anywhere you see this mass unrest."
In a presentation to city council, he explained SAPD has spent the past eight years reviewing its procedures and comparing itself to police forces in other big cities.
Since then, the Chief says the department's updated its use of force tactics, changed its car chase policy and added a mental health unit.
"There's very specific crisis intervention training that officers receive," Chief McManus says.
He recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to work on national police reform efforts. He has weekly calls with White House staff to discuss what's working in San Antonio, like block walks through high-crime neighborhoods.
"The bottom line in all of that is we are well down the road on police reform," Chief McManus says.
But as the peaceful protest by the group Black Lives Matter at this week's Martin Luther King, Jr., March reminded many neighbors, there's more work to be done.
"They have to be able to develop the trust in the police officers," Gregory says. "And of course, we have to be able to trust them that you're not going to do something that we don't feel is right."
The next step for the department begins soon when officers start hitting the streets with body cameras. The Chief says SAPD's policies will follow Department of Justice recommendations.