The Year of Police Disgrace

Since my superiors are enforcing a temporary ban on all copy encouraging a certain self-promoting “civil rights” attorney (clue: we call it a “Myart-orium”), I’m forced to tip my ivy cap at San Antonio’s second-most-vocal critic of the San Antonio Police Department: Express-News columnist Ken Rodriguez. In October, I called him the daily’s “ugliest page-three girl” and a “tool,” and while I still stand somewhat by my assessment, without Rodriguez’s gossip-wrangling to complement the obsessive news-clipping by the folks at, I would’ve wasted my youth on the archaic computers at the District Clerk’s office.

Perhaps former SAPD Chief Albert Ortiz could foresee the endpoint of the lump of crap’s ceiling-fan trajectory, or maybe it’s true he just wanted some quality family time. Whatever the impetus, Ortiz took shelter from the shitstorm with a comfy retirement in February. Replacing him was one William McManus, a barrel-chested, stereotypically surnamed, well-connected cop who was given consideration after the application deadline expired. Scandal-handling’s one of McManus’s fortés; he became the Minneapolis chief on the tail-end (no pun intended) of a rape-with-a-toilet-plunger scandal. Eight months in, he reacted deftly to a videotaped Rodney King-ish incident, ushering in a new era of “transparency” that included a mass leadership makeover of the MPD. Of course, every chief gets sued for something or other. For McManus it was a reverse-discrimination suit leftover from his stint in Dayton, Ohio.

In Saytown, McManus found a much larger mess to clean up. Here’s the year-end summary of the SAPD’s misfortunes:

Spring Triggers

This spring, the phrase on the tip of every beat reporter’s pen was “use of force.” Between February and March, a string of officer-involved shooting went down, six in 13 days, leaving three civilians dead. In every case, the top brass stood by their men. Ortiz had set up a police-shooting review team, but 10 months later, SAPD are still trigger happy, most recently busting a cap in the head of an innocent young black man in broad daylight. The biggest bullet-related embarrassment of the year was the $24,500 settlement with a guy who was shot in the leg when a cop dropped his firearm in the crapper.


The Great Blue Whale

By summer, it became clear that the murder, robbery, and car-theft rates were going to keep booming and eventually dwarf 2005’s numbers. In response to public outcry, McManus assembled a special “Crime Response Unit,” a super-force of more than 40 officers to clean the streets. In two months, the Princess Bride-style brute squad hauled in nearly 1,900 criminals. However, almost 75 percent were misdemeanants and dumped into an already brimming jail population. This lead County Commish Tommy Adkisson, master of the colorful soundbite, to use the unforgettable P-word: “I’m not saying don’t arrest people ... But let’s not load up the jail with the plankton of the judicial system either.”


Cop-uter Illiterate

Due to a dearth of paper to chase— a combination of neglectful documentation and mass paper-shredding — we may never know how incompetent police officials were in their seven-year effort to digitize crime records. What we do know is that the useless Direct Report Entry system cost between $874,000 and $904,000 and resulted in the resignation of Assistant Police Chief Tyrone Powers, project manager Mark Kozielski, Deputy Chief Jeffrey Page, and Power’s wife, Captain Sonya Powers. Tyrone Powers said we can expect more resignations in 2007.


To Protect and Perv

Speaking of resignations, there was also the matter of Assistant Chief Jerry Pittman, who left bloody hotel sheets and towels at the scene of an extramarital booty call. McManus replaced Pittman with Powers, then replaced Powers with Assistant Chief Rudy Gonzales. Shortly after Gonzales’s appointment, columnist Rodriguez blasted Gonzales for hooking up with a hooker. A naughty deed, but one pretty much zeroed out when the nearly impossible-to-please League of United Latino American Citizens endorsed Gonzales. It was far from the worst sexual indiscretion of the year. In 2006 a cop was convicted of raping a woman he’d pulled over for a sobriety test, and another was convicted of fondling several nurses. The worst of the worst, though, was the cop who brutally raped a transvestite prostitute. The Feds will pursue life imprisonment when he’s sentenced in January.


Assorted Fuzzy Illogic

And then there’s the uncategorizable embarrassments, such as the detective who allegedly shoved Justice of the Peace Albert McKnight; the cops who were busted on federal drug charges; the Internal Affairs officer who was arrested for scratching the hell out of her dentist husband. Weapons, a badge, and a laptop were stolen from a visiting out-of-state SWAT team’s rental car and then-deputy chief Rudy Gonzales’s own cruiser was burgled in April. The proverbial cake was taken by traffic officer Israel Butler (already under investigation for reporting telephone death threats that the SAPD believes he called in himself) who created a huge administrative mess by completely fabricating a shooting.


The question is, then, can McManus turn it all around in 2007? According to a recent UTSA survey, 51 percent of San Antonians have faith in the chief. In the meantime, the best PR for the SAPD this year came from the green-screen-sweeping hands of Good Morning San Antonio’s new traffic reporter, Officer Marcus Trujillo. The Express-News says, “He’s handsome and vivacious with, yes, a lovely smile.” I guess that’s a start.

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