The race to the bottom has begun. The delayed release of the requested study of the San Antonio Police Department’s use-of-force policies and procedures was posted on the City’s website today. Now the anti-authoritarian hordes are diligently chewing their way to the bottom of the 98-page document. (To wash it down, we have the SAPD’s “matrix” report of a mere 14 pages.)
D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum returned its findings months ago, but the department chose not to release them until Chief William McManus had a chance to draft his response to the “numerous recommendations” made by the panel (141 by the PD’s count).
A quick scan reveals the following recommendations:
* A taser-discharge quota (not that you have to use them up by month’s end, fellas);
* No more shooting at moving vehicles unless there’s an actual threat involved. (Unless you have news cameras on the scene. What could be more flash?!);
* Stop threatening those filing citizen complaints with potential aggravated perjury charges.
* And when it comes to the high-intensity, camo-geared Tactical Response Unit, well, where to begin?
TRU officers seemed to generate a disproportionate number of complaints. The department has already made some changes, but it needs to continue to monitor the tactics and performance of the TRU and of its other special units.
Some personnel have been changed and the TRU’s operational philosophy and practices have been altered. The department reviewed complaints against TRU members and provided officers with information on how to better manage their encounters with people in the neighborhoods.
The geographic boundaries of TRU areas of operation were expanded so that their “omnipresence” did not create an aura of an occupying army in their assigned neighborhoods.
The TRU has purposefully looked for opportunities to work with the community in other than enforcement functions. Such changes seemed to have enabled the unit to continue to successfully address crime problems but have decreased complaints.
Each SAPD special unit should have a distinct purpose but the department should ensure they act in a coordinated approach. Care should be taken to avoid units trying to become wholly self-contained. For example, risky warrant service and entries should be an exclusive part of the SWAT Detail’s function. They have the training, experience and equipment to ensure that such events are carried with maximum safety. Allowing other units to take on this role jeopardizes both officer and public safety.
The department should structure on-going communication among station commanders, special unit commanders, supervisors and residents in the neighborhoods and areas of concentrated operations. On-going communication and neighborhood involvement will make operations more productive and safer.
Unless in plainclothes assignments, unit members should wear the standard SAPD uniform rather than military garb. Other than in special circumstances such as SWAT call outs, they are performing police duties rather than military operations. They should avoid taking on the trapping of an “occupying army.”
The department’s matrix outlines which recommendations it would accept, which it would consider, and which just wouldn’t fly.
Of the 141 recommendations, only seven were rejected outright. Interesting that one of those would be the issue of TRU officers getting back in uniform. They’re just diggin’ on the camo.
The justification for not accepting PERF’s recommendation? “Members of TRU wear uniforms that are consistent within their Division.”
Let the occupation continue.