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The San Antonio police union wants to attract more female police officers by improving the parental and family leave policies the San Antonio Police Department offers.

“The current state of policing in America, while it voices that [departments] want more women, has done nothing to achieve that goal,” said the union’s lead contract negotiator, Ron DeLord, during a collective bargaining meeting Friday.

Only 11% of the City’s more than 2,300 officers are women. Nationally, about 13% of total officers are women – a percentage that has stayed relatively stagnant over previous decades, according to a 2019 report by the National Institute of Justice.

The union’s proposal for inclusion in a new contract includes six additional weeks of paid time off for new parents. It would also initiate a “Balanced Work Life Environment Study” that would examine other possible time-off options for family-related activities such as doctor appointments and family emergencies.

“We understand that the diversity [of] our department, mirroring the citizens that we serve, is a great advantage – not only to our police department and the City but also to our citizens,” said SAPD Det. Sandra McCormick, who worked on the union’s proposal. “This assists those members [who] choose to have a family to know that the City backs you.”

It was one of several proposals passed between City of San Antonio and police union officials as they negotiate a new labor contract. Friday marked the second time the two sides have met in what is expected to be a months-long process. The union’s current contract expires in September.

While much of the focus during this round of negotiations will be focused on police disciplinary procedures, the contract also regulates nearly all facets of work in the police department – from wages and health care to paid time off and promotions.

Maria Villagómez, the deputy city manager who is leading the City’s negotiating team, welcomed the union’s proposal regarding parental and wellness leave.

“I’m excited to hear that the association recognizes the value of having women in the organization and [is] trying to come up with ways to incentivize them – not only to attract them, but to retain them,” Villagómez told the San Antonio Report after the meeting. Police officers have various types of time off that they can use after the birth of a child, but not time specifically designated for that.

“We are going to evaluate their proposal,” which will have a fiscal impact on the department’s overall budget, she said.

The policy would be similar to the paid parental leave that the City currently offers non-uniformed employees.

“We’re just looking at what private industry is doing [and] what the City is doing for its other employees” to attract a more diverse workforce, said SAPD Sgt. Christopher Lutton, who chairs the union’s contract negotiation committee. “We need to lay these [policies] out and start showing that this career path is – even though it’s structured – it’s adjustable so we can start getting other candidates in here.”

Friday also marked the first substantive change agreed to by both sides: giving an advantage to SAPD applicants who live within city limits.

When officers apply for employment, eligible applicants take an exam that includes physical and intellectual tests. Bonus points are awarded to honorably discharged military veterans (five points), certified peace officers (two points), bachelor’s degree (two points), and associate’s degree (one point). Currently, local residents – who have lived in San Antonio for at least six months – also receive one point, but the union and City agreed to bump that up to five.

Several more agreements will be required if the union and City hope to reach a deal before the May 1 election, when voters will decide whether to remove the ability of the police union to collectively bargain for their contracts.

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