San Antonio Republicans are laying plans to organize voters in opposition to a proposed City Charter amendment that seeks to ban police from using no-knock warrants and chokeholds, as well as expand the city’s cite-and-release policy for low-level, nonviolent crimes.

The progressive group ACT 4 SA — which stands for Accountability, Compassion and Transparency for San Antonio — submitted 38,000 petition signatures last month requesting that the so-called Justice Charter be voted on in the May 6 municipal election. The city clerk still needs to verify at least 20,000 of the signatures belong to San Antonio residents in order for the measure to appear on the ballot.

“This policy is going to implode San Antonio,” retired San Antonio Police Department officer David Moore told roughly 60 people gathered at the Christopher Columbus Italian Society for a presentation on the initiative at Thursday’s meeting of the Heart de San Antonio Republican Club. “If it passes, it will take years to recover from.”

State Rep. John Lujan; former Republican candidate for Bexar County District Attorney Marc LaHood; mayoral candidate Christopher Longoria; former Dellview Area Neighborhood Association president Ernest Salinas, who is running for City Council in District 1; and District 6 City Council candidate Irina Rudolph were in attendance.

“I am concerned about some of the things we’ve heard tonight, so we are going to be looking at it,” Lujan said in an interview after Thursday’s meeting.

Moore, who also blogs and podcasts about policing, is well-known in local Republican circles. He helped campaign against a failed effort to repeal collective bargaining for the police union, known as Proposition B, in 2021.

“As bad as I told you Proposition B was, this justice policy is 10 times worse,” Moore told the audience.

“This organization ACT 4 SA is a reestablishment of Fix SAPD,” he added. “They have come back with bigger, harder plans and more funding.”

Indeed, ACT 4 SA founder Ananda Tomas was the executive director of Fix SAPD, and her new venture receives funding from the Texas Organizing Project, a well-heeled statewide organization that promotes criminal justice reforms, among other progressive causes.

“We will be saving money, keeping families together, stopping the unnecessary overcrowding of jails — but most of all, we will be saving lives through these policies,”  Tomas said of the charter amendment proposal when its petition launched in October.

In what could be an early hint at political messaging to come, Moore accused proponents of the Justice Charter of using false promises of legalizing abortion and marijuana to systematically undermine law enforcement. Most cases of abortion are illegal in Texas while recreational use of marijuana is outlawed in the state.

“They’re going to make police officers commit crimes in order to satisfy and protect their job,” said Moore, who suggested the San Antonio charter amendment, if successful, could be a model for other cities across the state.

A statewide spokesman for the Texas Organizing Project said Thursday he was unaware of any similar charter amendment initiatives currently happening in other cities.

Privately, some Democrats have suggested the Justice Charter could do more to stoke fear among conservative voters than excite progressives in the May election. Democrats swept the November midterm election by wide margins in Bexar County, however, and some Republicans at Thursday’s meeting conceded they weren’t optimistic about fielding credible challengers for municipal races.

Later this month, the Republican Club of Bexar County plans to host representatives from the San Antonio Police Officers’ Association, which opposes the charter amendment, to speak to its members.

“The SA Justice Charter initiative is proposing several reforms that will only hinder the effective policing in place today,” SAPOA President Danny Diaz said in a statement. “Our goal in the coming months is to ensure voters have the facts to make an informed decision on what exactly they are signing up for ahead of the May election.”

Moore said he would seek help opposing the charter amendment from religious leaders who helped fight Proposition B. He also urged attendees to speak to their neighbors and church groups about it.

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Andrea Drusch

Andrea Drusch writes about local government for the San Antonio Report. She's covered politics in Washington, D.C., and Texas for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, National Journal and Politico.