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Trouble Call Turns Ugly Involving 14-year Old Black Girl & Raises Issues of Police Trust

“Protecting the Alamo City” is more than just a slogan on our patrol cars. It is a philosophy we take to heart and practice it in everything we do. We do this in a variety of ways, one of the most important being our partnership with the citizens we serve.” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus

SAN ANTONIO- Is is over reaction or just another story in a laundry list of complaints against some police officers across the country who seem more interested in a “power tripping” rather than protecting and serving.


Lastest Incident Raises Questions of Trust


The latest incident in San Antonio involving the police handling and treatment of a 14-year old Black female teen is being met with criticism, concern and protest that the distaste for answering calls and dealing with issues relating to Black people appears to rear its ugly head in the personalities of officers and has now trickled down and that resentment appears to be aimed now too at Black youth.

Taj Matthews, executive director of the Claude & ZerNona Black Development Leadership Foundation, helped to release the child and went to court.

His take on the situation is that there are deeper trust  issues that need solving in San Antonio.

“The issue is that I have never seen anything like this,” he said. “San Antonio should really be outraged. One particular officer punched her in the face. The whole situation does not make any sense to me… I believe the majority of our police officer get up every morning and put on their uniform with pride.  They want to serve and protect their community.  But there are bad officers that need to be removed and to be held accountable as they not serving and protecting with honor.”

A disturbing video reveals how a San Antonio police officer seen suddenly lunging and savagely punching at a 14-year old Black female.  The girl on the video was arrested and charged with assault on a public servant and appeared in juvenile court

According to reports, police were responding to a fight that erupted at a northeast side quinceañera. During the interaction, one witness allegedly saw and reported that she saw a San Antonio Police Department officer punch her 14-year-old daughter so hard that it required medical attention. According to the parent, when doctors examined her some two days later, she was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury and trauma to her face and neck muscles. Some video allegedly recorded at the scene shows the officer punching the teen.

According to the SAPD department’s policy states that an officer can use physical force or an intermediate weapon if a suspect is actively being resistant. It goes on: “If circumstances allow, officers should attempt to de-escalate tense situations through ‘advisements, warnings, verbal persuasion, and other tactics’ to reduce the need for force.”

In a statement, Artessa House, one of the girl’s lawyers said the 14-year old is an honor-roll student with no history of violence and did not assault the officer. According to House, one officer can be seen in the video “clear as day” striking the girl. However she is the one facing adjudication in juvenile court over the incident.


A Cracked Mirror- Police Image Tarnished

The dicey incident is a new blip on the police radar screen and has sent public relations departments from incumbent Mayor Ivy Taylor, who is Black, and Police Chief McManus into overdrive to slow the swirling tides of frustration and growing concerns that the San Antonio Police may have damaged its delicate relationship with the Black community.

Ivy, who is up for re-election, has been proactive in trying to get to the bottom of the situation and calm growing concerns over police brutality and treatment of citizen.

“Today I met with the City Manager, City Attorney and Chief McManus to view the body camera videos showing an altercation between an SAPD officer and a 14-year-old girl. State law prohibits me from releasing any details about what I saw because the incident involved a minor, but the City Attorney’s Office has reached out to the family’s attorney to arrange for them to receive a copy of the video,” she said is a statement. “I am confident in the process taking place now. While the officer remains on administrative duty, Internal Affairs is conducting an investigation, including a review of the body camera footage, other videos that were taken by people in the crowd and eyewitness statements.”

The next stop in this dispute is the Citizens Advisory Board. It is a panel made up of seven officers and seven community members. It will hold a full hearing to review the findings of the Internal Affairs investigation and determine if a violation of policy took place.

“If the Board determines the officer violated policy, it will make a recommendation on discipline to the Chief,” Mayor Ivy said. “The Chief will then meet with the officer and determine the level of discipline or corrective action. If the officer disagrees with the ruling of the Chief, he may appeal the ruling to an arbitrator.”


Safer from Who?


The San Antonio Police Department offers a variety of ways for community members to work closely with the police through organized programs and individual activities. The department contends to offer ways San Antonio residents can form partnerships with the police to make their neighborhoods safer places to live.

Damaged Trust-Dinged Programs?

The San Antonio Police Department has touted, showcased and embraced its Community Policing model for many decades, through its Community Services and School Services Programs, Crime Prevention Programs (Neighborhood Watch, National Night Out), Store Fronts, Decentralized Patrol Substations, and the Downtown Foot and Bicycle Patrol Unit.

In 1995 the Department created a special Community Policing Unit, the San Antonio Fear Free Environment Unit (SAFFE) which links closely with community involvement programs, such as Cellular on Patrol (initiated in 1993) and the Citizen Police Academy (initiated 1994).

The Community Policing model is a collaborative effort between a police department and community that identifies problems of crime and disorder and involves all elements of the community in the search for solutions to these problems. It is founded on close, mutually beneficial ties between police and community members.

At the center of community policing are three essential and complementary core components:

  • Partnerships between the police and the community.
  • Problem Solving as a method to identify and solve problems of concern to the community
  • Change Management within the police organization to accommodate increased community involvement.

The San Antonio Police Department also participates in the Boy Scouts of America sponsored Police Explorer program for those age 14-20 interested in police work. Explorer Posts established at all six substations: Prue (NW), West, South, Central, East and North, as well as a Park Police Explorer Post. Contact Substation.

It appears that being Black and dealing with police in San Antonio is even more challenging.


Skeptics Call For New Community Relations Plan

The question remains and jury is out on how this incident will play fully in the Black community support for the police, community policing and whether Black residents in San Antonio fully trust the police.

Community leaders want to see more than window dressing applied to this incident. They want change.

“During President Obama’s  White House Task Force on Community Policing I saw police officers, police chiefs, Black Lives Matter, community activists and city leaders all working together on a plan to develop working relationships that enable trust and teamwork in the community,”  Matthews said. “Unfortunately that has not happened here locally. If they could come together to make a plan that works, why can’t we?   We need a working plan in San Antonio.”


Darwin Campbell, African-American News and Issues


The San Antonio Police Department and San Antonio Observer also contributed to this story

Photo: Bob Owen /San Antonio Express-News