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january perf meetingThe Police Executive Research Forum’s report on SAPD’s use-of-force behaviors isn’t War and Peace, but it is over 90 pages and fairly saturated with statistics and other vital data that residents would be well served to explore.

As I editorialized in this week’s MashUp, I believe that after a sorry handling and release of the PERF report by the City, San Antonians have an opportunity to latch onto the repeated promises of transparency and public involvement to continue to guide the reform of the department.

Obviously we owe a debt of gratitude to recently-disgraced attorney James Myart, who I write about a month back. His bellicose and sometimes-outrageous exhibitions on behalf of the “least of these” simply got PERF on the table. This was obvious back in January when the only public hearing (pictured left) was held by the PERF investigators in East SA. It is also the opinion of others deep in the trenches of ongoing civil rights struggles with the PD. A view I tend to agree with.

mcmanus picSo, what now? In talking with the Chief yesterday, the reform-minded head of SAPD, William McManus reiterated how personally important it is to him that the coming committee work and the examinations by three convened taskforces are open to the public. Those taskforces will focus on use-of-force, Internal Affairs, and “general manual.” How open they will be will depend a lot on how the proceedings may be accessed. Whether there will be transcripts or streaming video or what. They are questions that remain to be answered. It’s a new baby.

We’ll be posting the full interview online with the story. In the near future, we’ll be turning this stuff around much more quickly as we move to increase daily content offerings on a coming much-needed revamped website.

Here are a couple nuggets I had to scratch from the print version of the interview:


One of the recommendations was folks would not be required to file [complaints] at the police department, they’d be able to file those either in the mail or online. Is that something you agree with?
It is something I agree with. I think there needs to be alternate ways of filing a complaint if responding to Internal Affairs. If the Internal Affairs office is not a viable option for you, there needs to be some alternative way for you to file a complaint. I think making this process as accessible and as transparent as we can does nothing but build the public’s trust in the process.

The language that’s on the forms now includes a warning of, a prominent warning, of aggravated perjury. Do you think that has limited people from filing complaints?
Well, the report had some concern about that. There’s actually an issue. We’ll likely remove the prominence of it, but it will still be on there.

The City in general, the PD, the City Manager’s office, everybody’s taken a lot of criticism, or some degree of criticism. The fact that it took so long to get it out. That it came out right before the July 4 weekend. How was that handled? What needed to happen before it was released and who was ultimately in charge of deciding when to release it?
Well, we were working with the City Attorney’s office and the City Manager’s office to clarify a lot of the language in the initial report, the draft report, and also to discuss the conflicts created by the local government code recommendations. We spent a lot of time putting this matrix together and going over it again and again, trying to get the language to where it was understandable where anyone who wanted to read it could understand it. That took a lot of the time up. Trying to time the release of it with a lot of the other events going on was somewhat of a task.
We didn’t want to release the report and then have all these questions raised by the report and not have answers for it. We thought the best thing to do was to put this matrix together and it provided a response to any questions about what we were going to with any of these recommendations.


Yeah. What would be instructive is the viewing of the original report shipped from PERF to McManus that has since seen such a working over.

McManus has accepted, as has been reported repeatedly, 105 of 141 recognized (by McManus) PERF recommendations. A few (seven) were rejected outright. It’s important to know why. Taking the Tactical Response Unit out of camouflage was one of those. A strange exception, to my thinking, that isn’t defended significantly in McManus’s response "matrix."

There are still 29 recommendations that are to be debated. A few of this story includes whether the PD should change Tactical Response Unit partners regularly and integrate more Patrol officers in?

A few that will certainly irritate the police union. For example, McManus accepted the recommendation that officer suspensions remain on record for three rather than 2 years and that the City should work to end the process by which the police union can stop objectionable civilian members from being appointed to the Chief’s Advisory Action Board.

If you haven’t yet, check out the report and let us know what reform aspects you find most deserving of sustained scrutiny.

Posted by Greg Harman on 7/10/2008
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