Fact-Checking Police Union President Mike Helle

In his response to last week’s offer by the City of San Antonio to resume contract negotiations, San Antonio Police Officers Association President Mike Helle made a number of misstatements that warrant correction:

CLAIM: “We are over 220 police officers short.”

FACT: As of last week, there were 153 vacancies in the 2,385-member San Antonio Police Department. There are currently two classes in training at the San Antonio Police Academy containing 57 cadets, and three more classes are planned for this year.

CLAIM: “The Mayor and City Manager are endangering public safety.”

FACT: Public safety is a top priority for the City, and the Mayor and City Council approved an FY 16 budget that spends $716 million on public safety, 66.5% of the entire General Fund Budget. San Antonio remains one of the safest big cities in America.

CLAIM: “City leadership has wasted over $2 million in taxpayer money on this pointless lawsuit.”

FACT: To date, the City has spent approximately $243,000 on the lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the evergreen clause in the expired police and fire contracts. The contracts cost taxpayers $550 million per year and will continue to grow until 2024. As long as the unions refuse to negotiate a contract that taxpayers can afford, the legal challenge is the City’s only alternative to containing rapidly increasing healthcare costs paid by taxpayers.

CLAIM: “We will not negotiate under the threat of any lawsuit.”

FACT: In fact, the police union did negotiate for nearly a year after the lawsuits were initially filed. It wasn’t until after the union balked on the City’s offer of 15.75% in pay increases and no healthcare premiums that they walked away from the bargaining table. Only then did the City advance the lawsuits in court. Yesterday’s offer from the City was to push back the filings of any briefs to allow for a window of opportunity to negotiate an agreement.

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