The former San Antonio police officer accused of giving a homeless man a feces sandwich lost his second appeal to get his job back on Friday.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus issued two dismissals for separate incidents nearly four years ago.
Matthew Luckhurst, who claimed he just wanted the homeless man to throw away a tray of bread and feces, wasn’t permanently fired for that first incident because of the statute of limitations for disciplinary actions outlined in the police union contract. But an independent arbitrator found his dismissal warranted in the second incident when he defecated in a woman’s bathroom and purposely didn’t flush.
“On the same occasion, he spread a brown tapioca-like substance on the toilet seat to give the appearance of feces,” according to a City news release sent Friday. “By his own admission, he took these actions because a female officer had placed a sign in the room requesting that it be kept clean.”
Arbitrator Thomas Cipolla agreed that termination was warranted “due to the egregious nature of Luckhurst’s conduct aimed at women.”
Luckhurst did not receive any back pay, according to an SAPD spokesman.
The union’s contract, which prohibits disciplinary action for infractions that took place 180 days before the chief issues a suspension, also allows Luckhurst to appeal the arbitrator’s decision in state district court. State law also allows disciplined and indicted officers to receive back pay if they win an appeal of the chief’s decision to fire or suspend them.
“The vast majority of our officers respect their oaths to serve the community, and they resent it when individuals like Luckhurst discredit the badge,” McManus said in a statement. “For both the department and the community, it was critically important that he not be allowed to have his job back. Although the limits imposed on me by the Collective Bargaining Agreement made firing him more difficult than it should have been, justice was finally served in this case.”
The police union and its contract has been the target of many Black Lives Matter protests this month, as the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota renewed calls for reform. In addition to the statute of limitations, the contract – which is subject to approval by City Council – allows officers 48 hours and access to all evidence before they are formally questioned by Internal Affairs, which critics say gives the accused time and opportunity to undermine the charges. After 180 days, short suspensions are reduced to simple reprimands on an officer’s permanent record.
Activist groups are organizing a petition to repeal state laws that allow police to collectively bargain for their labor contracts and appeal decisions through arbitration (among other things).
“This individual clearly has no business wearing an SAPD uniform, and it should never have been this hard to fire him,” said City Manager Erik Walsh in a statement. “I am pleased that this is behind us, but the contract provision that gave him more chances than he deserved remains an obstacle to the Chief’s ability to discipline officers who fail to live up to SAPD’s standards.”