Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales joined over 40 officials from across the country calling on district attorneys and state attorney generals to reject endorsements and campaign contributions from police unions.
Elected prosecutors can no longer “cling to the status quo and pretend there are no issues with the way things have been done” after protesters from around the country have heavily criticized the American legal system, the 41 prosecutors said in a joint statement.
“Campaign endorsements and contributions send a message,” the statement said. “They tell citizens that the candidate — in this case, a prosecutor seeking election — aligns with the values and interests of the donor or endorser. And they create a perceived (if not actual) impression that the elected official is beholden to that group. So what are the values and interests of police unions that elected prosecutors will be perceived as aligning with?”
Protests calling for racial reform began after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed while in Minneapolis police custody in May. In San Antonio, there have been calls to reduce the San Antonio police budget and animosity toward the police union for “helping keep bad cops” on the force.
During a meeting with the Express-News Editorial Board in June, Gonzales said his office has strengthened its scrutiny of police use of force and now presents evidence on all police-involved shootings to a grand jury to determine whether charges are warranted. Since entering office nearly two years ago, he said he has taken steps to protect the public from police officers who use excessive force or harbor bias toward minorities.
In June, protesters called on Gonzales to reopen the cases on the deaths of Marquise Jones, Charles “Chop Chop” Roundtree Jr., Antronie Scott — three Black men killed by SAPD officers. Gonzales, however, said there isn’t new evidence to warrant reopening the cases.
The prosecutors’ joint statement mirrored protesters’ concerns, saying the unions have been the most vocal opponents of reform and changes.
“It has become increasingly clear that — despite what they might say — the interest being advanced by police unions is not the safety of our communities, but rather protecting themselves and maintaining the harmful, broken criminal legal system,” the statement said.
The statement also cited conflict of interest to objectively review an instance of police misconduct while accepting political and financial support from police unions.
A study of 1,400 individuals conducted by Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute showed that a majority of voters supported the initiative while less than 25 percent oppose it.
Taylor Pettaway is a breaking news and general assignment reporter for MySA.com | firstname.lastname@example.org | @TaylorPettaway