Jan 30, 2023 - Politics

San Antonio police firings data shared by police reform group

Indefinite suspensions of San Antonio police officers
Data: ACT 4 SA; Chart: Axios Visuals

Police reform nonprofit Act 4 SA has released a trove of new data and information about San Antonio Police Department officers who have been fired or suspended over the last decade.

Why it matters: Public information can increase transparency and trust. Local activists hope making the data available in a searchable website will help hold police accountable for their behavior and hinder future bad actions.

  • They also wanted to highlight disciplinary loopholes that allow officers who have been fired to rejoin the police force through arbitration.
  • The public dashboard is the first of its kind in Texas, according to Act 4 SA.

How it works: You can search the dashboard by officer name, incident type or disciplinary outcomes. Short narratives of incidents are also included in the data, released late Thursday.

By the numbers: The most common reason officers are fired — called indefinite suspensions by the department — is not meeting a "responsibility to serve the public," with 84 such incidents between 2010 and 2022. The broad category can include using profane language, rude behavior and more.

  • The dashboard shows the names of 110 officers who were fired in the last 12 years. Some officers were disciplined more than once or for multiple reasons. The SAPD employed 2,365 officers as of February last year.
  • In 35 incidents, an officer was arrested.
  • 25 incidents involved lying.
  • 17 incidents were related to a drug or alcohol violation.

Details: The dashboard includes some officers whose firings drew headlines, including Matthew Luckhurst, who gave a feces sandwich to a homeless man, and Lee Rakun, who received enough back pay in a settlement that he was the highest-paid city employee in 2020.

Context: Nearly half of all police officers fired, according to Act 4 SA, see their case go to arbitration. That's where they can argue to get their job back.

What they did: Act 4 SA received the information through open records requests and from the SAPD's data and transparency page.

  • The dashboard is funded with a grant from the Urban Institute and Microsoft Justice Reform Initiative.

What they're saying: "It will be hard now for our local law enforcement agencies in Bexar County to say they did not have the resources to know they were hiring SAPD officers previously fired for misconduct," Ananda Tomas, executive director of ACT 4 SA, said in a statement.

  • A spokesperson for the police department said they could not comment on the accuracy of the dashboard.
  • "Officer suspensions and arbitrations are public information and SAPD posts this information to the department's website monthly in an effort to maintain transparency," the spokesperson told Axios. "This information is readily available to anyone and therefore, anyone can use this information to conduct their own analysis."

What's next: Act 4 SA plans to update the dashboard regularly and add data from other law enforcement agencies — from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office to other police and sheriff departments across Texas.


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