Friday, October 21, 2016
Making America great — for everyone
It’s been quite a week for police news.
The lead story Wednesday on the front page of the San Antonio Express-News was headlined, “Trump says S.A.’s mayor should be feeling shame.”
The reference, of course, was to a phalanx of San Antonio police who were assigned to guard Trump during a recent fundraising trip here.
The Trump campaign posted video of the officers in red Trump “Make America Great Again” caps as they said goodbye to the presidential candidate at the airport.
The wearing of political caps while on duty and in uniform is clearly against police policy, as admitted by police union President Mike Helle.
Helle did ask that the officers not be severely punished and got his wish.
While six supervisors received written reprimands, 17 officers were assessed only counseling.
That, plus a mild public spanking by Mayor Ivy Taylor, who said on Facebook she was “deeply disappointed” by the officers’ actions.
It was this that apparently drew Trump’s ire, as expressed at the end of a 12-minute fawning interview Tuesday with Joe Pags, a nationally syndicated conservative talk show host based at WOAI in San Antonio.
“You can imagine if they put on a crooked Hillary hat, that would have been just fine,” Trump said when Pags brought up the disciplinary action.
“Right,” said Pags, who appears to know Mayor Taylor only a bit better than Trump, who assumed she was a man.
Exactly a year ago the Clinton campaign put Taylor’s name on a list of Texans who had endorsed her, only to suffer public embarrassment when Taylor’s office quickly announced that she had done no such thing and would not do so.
Not only has Taylor said she wants to honor San Antonio’s mayor’s office as a nonpartisan position, but she is very aware that she won her office with solid support from the city’s conservative North Side precincts.
She would neither wear a Hillary hat in public, nor look the other way if SAPD officers did.
Last week’s news featured several positive police stories.
The Los Angeles Police Department held an awards ceremony that for the first time honored officers with a “Preservation of Life” medal.
It goes to officers who, often at some risk to themselves, de-escalate potentially violent situations.
Milwaukee has a similar awards program, as does Philadelphia, which has given out 44 “Medals of Tactical De-escalation” since last December.
This week the president of one of the nation’s largest police organizations, the International Association of Chiefs of Police,” issued a formal apology “for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of people of color.”
That reminded me of a story told to me years ago by the late Ray Hildebrand, a San Antonio cop for 27 years.
He recalled as a rookie patrolling the East Side in the early 1960s with a storied veteran named Wild Bill Weilbacher.
Hildebrand said Weilbacher one afternoon took him inside a bar, where without provocation he cold-cocked a black man who was peacefully nursing a beer.
“I think it was a test,” Hildebrand said. “He wanted to see if I would rat on him.”
The apology issued on behalf of the police chiefs did not mention current conditions or controversies.
But clearly work remains, as we are reminded by a local story in the news.
Mayor Taylor’s Police-Community Council met this week for the first time in public at Sam Houston High School, not far from the site of the bar Hildebrand spoke of.
At the meeting Chief William McManus announced that two-thirds of officers have body cameras now, and the rest should get them by early summer.
He also said all officers will receive training in implicit bias.
It’s all part of making America great — for everyone.