San Antonio Police Chief William McManus shakes hands with District Attorney Joe Gonzales as the City and County work on coming to an agreement on the County Magistrate Office.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus shakes hands with District Attorney Joe Gonzales as Sheriff Javier Salazar and incoming City Manager Erik Walsh chat. The City of San Antonio and Bexar County are working on an agreement to streamline arrestee processing. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

City and county officials gathered at a Monday news conference to assure the public a solution to merging city and county magistration efforts is forthcoming.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said he expects the City of San Antonio and Bexar County to have a plan to move San Antonio Police Department operations to the County’s new arrestee processing center by the end of May. He estimated implementing the plan would start later in 2019.

City and County leaders did not offer more details as to what the plan would look like or who would fund SAPD’s move.

“[Discussion over SAPD’s move to the County’s facility] has been brewing for four years, and we wanted to end that concern today from a law enforcement and general public standpoint,” Nirenberg said.

The County opened its new $33 million Justice Intake and Assessment Center last December, but the San Antonio Police Department balked at moving its arrestee processing operations from the Municipal Court downtown to the new facility. Chief William McManus has repeatedly cited wasting officers’ time and capacity concerns as issues that need to be solved before SAPD moves into the new annex in the South Tower of the Bexar County Jail.

McManus has said officers will need to accompany arrestees longer at the new facility, keeping them from patrolling the streets.

McManus said Monday that he was committed to working toward a solution that moved SAPD processing operations into the Justice Intake and Assessment Center. A solution may include expanding the center or renovating certain areas, but how to fund potential changes has yet to be finalized, he said.

“The police chief had not agreed to pay for that,” McManus joked. “But some of these questions [about who pays for what] we’re still discussing. We don’t have answers for this yet. The end goal is for SAPD to move over to the existing facility that does not interrupt the way we’re doing business right now.”

Sheriff Javier Salazar said he understands SAPD’s concerns, as he left the police department only two years ago and participated in processing center discussions before then. Salazar has continued talking to McManus about bringing SAPD to the Justice Intake and Assessment Center, he said.

“We’ve been quietly working in the background while all this supposed controversy was going on,” Salazar said. “[McManus] and I have never had controversy. Recently, we had a meeting where he and I were both laughing about the fact that this was the most productive meeting the two agencies have ever had. And it’s because of the relationship he and I continue to have. He’s a mentor to me.”

Flanked by Wolff and McManus, Nirenberg said that the City and County will work together to use taxpayer dollars efficiently and deploy law enforcement officers effectively.

“A lot of attention has been given to concerns, disagreements, and potential problems with our combined operations, but we want to ensure everyone we are committed and none of these issues are insurmountable,” he said. “We’re working together now as we speak, and we’ll continue to do so in the coming months to address any of the outstanding concerns and difficulties.”

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.