After a review of more than 130 sex and domestic violence crimes, the San Antonio Police Department discovered what it called the “negligence” of an unnamed police detective that led to “a number of these cases” not being properly investigated, SAPD Chief William McManus said Thursday.

The cases were handled by the SAPD’s Special Victims Unit (SVU), which investigates human trafficking and child sexual abuse, among other crimes.

City attorneys will conduct an independent review of the SAPD’s Special Victims Unit and all its cases, City Manager Sheryl Sculley said.

“We will not rest until we are certain that we know the full extent of any problems and that they have been fully rectified,” she said.

The earliest case dates back to 2013, McManus said, and some may not be able to be prosecuted.

“They were mishandled in a number of ways,” he said. In most cases, however, SAPD was “able to fix those discrepancies.”

The victims have been notified of the results of a recent internal case audit. The audit was initiated when case numbers dropped in the SVU, McManus said.

“I don’t believe that it was malicious,” he said. “It was quite obviously negligence that led to this.”

SAPD officials discovered about six or seven weeks ago that a single detective was responsible.

“I’m especially upset given the numerous policy changes that Chief McManus and I have implemented over the past decade to improve the investigation of these particularly heinous crimes,” City Manager Sheryl Sculley said. “It is absolutely imperative that victims who come forward to report sex crimes, domestic violence, or human trafficking have the utmost confidence that their case will be investigated immediately and thoroughly and with the highest level of sensitivity and professionalism.”

McManus and Sculley said they were unable to comment on the administrative action that will be taken against the detective due to the terms of the police union’s contract with the City.

The name of the detective will be made public if the employee is terminated, said Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association.

“If this detective did what’s being alleged then [they] need to be held accountable,” Helle told the Rivard Report. “[SVU detectives] deal with some of the most horrific crimes and they need to be managed appropriately.”

The police union contract has nothing to do with this case, he added.

“I want to make very clear that police officers and their supervisors who neglect or interfere with the arrest and prosecution of sex offenders or those who commit family violence is unacceptable,” Sculley said. “It will not be tolerated. And, if the facts bear out, we will take swift action to correct it.”

The individual was reassigned to another department, for reasons McManus declined to disclose, before the case audit began.

“My humble apologies go out to the victims whose crimes were not properly investigated,” McManus said. “We own that, and we will fix it.”

Sculley pointed to several policy changes the Special Victims Unit has made during her and McManus’ tenure:

  • “Officers who suspect domestic violence has occurred issue immediate warrants for the arrest of the alleged perpetrator;
  • “Victims who report sex crimes are given the option of using a pseudonym to protect their privacy throughout investigation and prosecution;
  • “Sex assaults cases are immediately assigned to a detective, and investigators are instructed to contact the victims within 24 hours;
  • “And finally, we provide a holistic approach to these cases. We work closely with the Rape Crisis Center, Child Safe, the Battered Women’s Shelter and other community partners to ensure that victims receive the medical, emotional, housing services, protection, and financial support they need.”

Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3), former chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, also attended the press conference Thursday.

“Like everyone else, I’m shocked and disgusted that anyone who works in this arena could be so dismissive and indifferent toward the women and children victimized by these heinous crimes,” she said in a statement issued after the press conference. “It takes tremendous strength and bravery to come forward, and that must be honored and respected. Sadly, the trust and credibility lost today will be doubly hard to earn back.  I will ensure that work begins immediately.”

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org