Police Union Blasts Proposed Changes in Police Officer Standards

Should a minor youthful indiscretion like taking LSD or being arrested for a misdemeanor while a teenager forever bar a person from becoming a San Antonio Police Officer?

1200 WOAI news reports new rules by the San Antonio Civil Service Commission say no, but the San Antonio Police Officers Association strongly disagrees, and is urging the mayor to overturn the new rules.

The Civil Service Commission recommendations say "Admission to using hallucinogenic drugs including, but not limited to LSD, STP, or Psilocybin," will no longer disqualify a candidate from joining the police academy, as long it was done 'by applicants when they were 19 years or younger.'

In its letter to the mayor, SAPOA President Det. Mike Helle says that allows people who admitted to 'dropping acid' to become uniformed police officers.

“We’ve seen the results of neighboring law enforcement agencies that lowered their standards and paid the price,” Helle said in the letter. “I don’t want San Antonio to go down that road, and I ask Mayor Nirenberg to direct the Commission to reverse their decision.”

Arrest for a minor Class B or Class C misdemeanor would no longer require an applicant to wait several years and demonstrate an unblemished record since the arrests to be accepted into a police cadet class.  The SAPOA says that would allow individuals with an arrest for certain types of family violence to become police officers, and Helle says you only need to look across town to the Bexar County Sheriff's Office to see the perils of that.

"This year, the Bexar County Sherriff’s Department suffered through twenty-four (24) arrests of members of their department for various criminal activities. They are now raising hiring standards. The City of San Antonio is going in the opposite direction," he said.

The proposals by the Civil Service Commission are in line with current thinking, and have been adopted by many public safety agencies as well as some branches of the U.S. military, that youthful drug use or minor misdemeanor crimes on a person's record should not bar them for life from becoming useful members of the framework of society.

The proposals also come at a time when it is increasingly difficult to recruit young people to become law enforcement officers.  Factors ranging from the crazy hours, constant scrutiny by various social groups, and the uncertain future of many police pension funds are beginning out outweigh the relatively high pay, early full retirement date, and respect from society which have generally accompanied a career in police work.

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