After news broke that more than 130 sex crimes and domestic violence cases were mishandled over several years by a Special Victims Unit detective Thursday, Mike Helle, president of the police union, told the Rivard Report that it’s “unfair to completely lay blame” on the detective and their supervisors.
“There’s no defending the indefensible,” Helle said of the alleged “negligence” of the officer. But Helle added that the city manager’s office shoulders some responsibility for “wasting millions of dollars on record management systems that are completely inept.”
While not providing further comment on the investigation itself, City officials rejected Helle’s characterization and said the case had nothing to do with failures of technology systems used by the department.
“To blame this on the system is completely off base,” SAPD Lt. Jesse Salame told the Rivard Report. “This was plain and simple a supervisory issue.”
Salame confirmed that one lieutenant and two sergeants are being transferred out of the Special Victims Unit. Official disciplinary action against them and the detective is pending. The local Fox News affiliate, KABB Fox 29 reported the name of a detective, but SAPD will not comment on or release the individual’s name until Chief William McManus takes such action. The Rivard Report could not verify before deadline Friday.
The San Antonio Police Department has used the record management system Hexagon since about 2011, Salame and Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh said in a phone interview. Specific information about the total cost of the system was not immediately available.
Helle called the record management system “a train wreck,” and said it couldn’t have caught the accused detective’s negligence.
Regardless of which system was being used or not used, Walsh said, in this case of this detective, “the process and policy manuals were not being followed.”
Before Hexagon, Walsh said, SAPD was using a labor-intensive mainframe system, he said. “They used to complain about [that] system.”
The department is aware that the police union does not like the newer system, Salame said.
The City set aside funds months ago to prepare to update the department’s record management system this year as part of a routine process initiated every 6-8 years, Walsh said, and is unrelated to the recent mismanagement of SVU cases.
“We’ll pull together different officers and get input on the features that they like in the current system and what things they want and need,” he said. From there, the City will issue a request for proposals for the contract that will probably look more like an online, “cloud-based” subscription service rather than software.
Salame said he’s confident that SAPD has and will adopted system updates when appropriate. “The technology is constantly evolving.”
This tension between the City and local police union is only the latest demonstration of a tumultuous relationship. The San Antonio Police Officers Association negotiated a contract with the City after more than two years of strained meetings, bitter press releases, and lawsuits.