Chief concerns and PERFormance wisdom

Listen to the whole interview:

It’s been seven months in the waiting, this outside evaluation of the San Antonio Police Department’s use-of-force policies and practices. After months of behind-the-scenes editing and discussion within SAPD, the City Attorney and City Manager’s offices, and a round of Council briefings, the Police Executive Research Forum findings and SAPD Chief William McManus’s initial responses have finally been tossed to the public. Now he’s setting up several committees dedicated to figuring out how or whether to implement the recommendations made by PERF.

We gave our initial impressions of the report in last week’s MashUp. This week we took the talk to McManus.

What are your overall thoughts on the findings of the Police Executive Research Forum?

I think it was pretty comprehensive for the scope of work that they looked at, that they did. It was pretty comprehensive in covering all the areas. There weren’t any earth-shattering points. Let me put it this way, there weren’t any surprises in the report.

A prominent new endeavor within SAPD is the Tactical Response Unit. Can you tell me a little bit about the changes that have already been implemented and what of these recommendations you hope to accomplish in the coming year?

`In` the first six months or so of the TRU’s existence we had a number of complaints from citizens about the unit, and I think a lot of that was due to our approach. We had planned on doing a six-month review from its inception, we did the six-month review, made a number of changes in the way we do things. From that six-month review and from those changes, the number of complaints have gone down. I think our effectiveness has gone up. And I think we’re right on course right now with the way TRU should be running and the way TRU does their business.

The PERF seems to suggest in their recommendations that `TRU` kind of has the propensity in its design to become a kind of insiders’ club. They’re saying you need to be able to rotate in officers from Patrol. Are those kinds of things you’ve agreed to implement or are looking at?

Everything goes before the `Steering Committee` to be reviewed. We’ve agreed with many of their recommendations, but they’ll still go before the committee. There may be things that we missed or things that the committee think of that we didn’t.

You accepted the majority of recommendations — 103 I think was what I saw.


105, OK. Of the 141 `recommendations`?

141. Right.

And that would include aspects within the Tactical Response Unit. Would you want them to, in addition, carry tasers, have more mid-range weapons?

`SAPD Public Information Officer Gabe Trevino interrupts.`

Greg, are you talking specifically about TRU or the department as a whole?

In this case TRU. I think that was one of the recommendations.

’Cause, I mean, TRU’s only a small fraction of that whole report. I’d hate to see it …

Oh, no, no, no. I’m interested in talking about various aspects of the report, but I think that was one that got a lot of attention.

Right, hold on a second.

`Chief McManus returns.`

I think, Greg, as many tools we can give our officers to do their jobs, whether it be in TRU, whether it be in Patrol, or wherever, I think it’s beneficial to the department and to the public.

Some of these issues that have been recommended I know will create more chafing at the police officer’s union. Have you had much discussion with them along this process?

Greg, I think I heard you say this would create chafing for the union?

There’s some of the recommendations that included adding more citizens to some of the oversight boards.

Well, I would disagree with your assessment of create chafing for the union. There are recommendations that are subject to the collective-bargaining agreement, and any of the issues in here that fall in that category will be brought up at the table. As far as the union being chafed goes, these are matters of discussion when they affect the collective-bargaining unit and we either come to an agreement or we don’t. It’s all done very professionally at the table.

OK. Another reason I brought up the TRU is that when it comes to the use-of-force aspects of the report, those obviously did increase quite a bit in ’06 and ’07, and the report suggests that was due to the launch of that unit. Is that your understanding?

We’ve been monitoring and watching very closely. And, yes, we certainly are trying to make sure that everything that they do is within best practices. Again, the report pointed out that many of the issues, most of the issues that affected TRU in the first six months, have been rectified.

I know transparency is also something you are a firm believer in. `Will` the work of those `committees` … be accessible to the public? In what way?

It’s absolutely accessible to the public. That’s one of the reasons we’re having non-sworn members sit on the committee, to make sure that the people who also have a stake in the outcome of these recommendations are well represented … Once we start the committee meetings in earnest, which I hope will be within the next 10 days, we’ll have all of those details worked out.

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