Buzzfeed Investigation Paints SAPD as a Police Force Unsafe for Women

click to enlarge A new Buzzfeed report says SAPD Chief William McManus' reforms haven't addressed the department's treatment of women. - FACEBOOK LIVE SCREENSHOT / NEWS4SA
Facebook Live screenshot / News4SA
A new Buzzfeed report says SAPD Chief William McManus' reforms haven't addressed the department's treatment of women.
An investigative piece by the news site Buzzfeed is blowing the whistle on the San Antonio Police Department's treatment of women.

The lengthy story posted this morning paints a picture of a department where women are held back — and at times bullied or assaulted — by a male-dominated culture that reforming Chief William McManus failed to address. The chief reportedly declined comment to Buzzfeed, although a department spokeswoman told the site she was unaware of a culture of misogyny.

A pair of SAPD public information officers told the Current there is no toxic culture in the department, adding that the ratio of women officers this year hit 12 percent, up from from 3 percent in 2006. They also pointed to the retirements of a female deputy chief and a female assistant chief in 2016 as reasons the number of women at the top may look low.

"Consider the source [for the article]," Police Lt. Jesse Salame said. "The writer used an anonymous source and attorney who represents officers who have been terminated for cause."

At the center of Buzzfeed's story is a detailed narrative of the scheme concocted by then–SAPD officers Emmanuel Galindo and Alejandro Chapa, who were convicted last year of coercing women into having sex with them for legal favors and cash.

Buzzfeed writer Albert Samaha suggests SAPD's failure to hire, retain and promote women, coupled with a leniency toward officers who abuse women, created an environment in which such offenses could unfold.

Seventeen male cops were suspended or canned for sexual misconduct taking place between 2007 and 2010, according to Buzzfeed's review of media reports. Another 21 officers (a pair of women among them) were suspended or shown the door for sexual misconduct committed between 2013 and 2016, the news site discovered in internal disciplinary reviews.

Buzzfeed also pulled alarming numbers about how many women held powerful positions on the force in 2016. Only one of the 29 officers on the command staff was a woman and just two of 49 lieutenants. Of the 15 largest departments in the country, S.A.'s was the only department without a woman at the assistant or deputy chief level. And with only 10 percent female officers, San Antonio was just over half the national average for big-city PDs.

Given the depth of Buzzfeed's reporting and the seriousness of the issues it raises, this story's likely to be a moving target. Stay tuned to see how the media-savvy McManus responds to what may be his department's time in the #MeToo spotlight.

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