Park, Airport Police Sue City for Pay Equal to SAPD Officers

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San Antonio Park Police wait as they accompany each of the ride groups. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

San Antonio Park Police wait as they accompany a cycling tour of neighborhood gardens.

Park and airport police filed a lawsuit against the City of San Antonio that calls for pay equity with San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) officers.

The lawsuit, filed last week with a state district court, states park and airport police are “truly uniformed police officers of the San Antonio Police Department and thus deserve the same compensation, benefits and contractual rights and opportunities as their brothers and sisters in SAPD have received through the collective bargaining process.”

The average park or airport officer with five years tenure gets paid nearly $16,500 less in base salary than a five-year tenured SAPD officer who is paid an average base salary of $67,000, according to SAPD.

However, parks and airport police don’t have the same training or requirements, an SAPD spokesman said.

“We appreciate the partnership that exists between SAPD Officers and Park and Airport Officers,” he said via email. “There are, however, differences in the minimum standards and qualifications to becoming an SAPD Officer versus a Park or Airport Officer. Although there are substantial distinctions in training, investigative authority and responsibility, the Park and Airport Officers are dedicated partners who assist SAPD and provide an important role in public safety within their areas of responsibility.”

The suit was filed by the San Antonio Park Police Officers Association (SAPPOA). SAPPOA President Henry Bassuk and Rogelio Tamez, president of the San Antonio Airport Police Officers Association, also are named as plaintiffs.

“You want me to do the work, you want me to take the risks,” Bassuk told the local FOX News affiliate. “I am more than happy to do that. I just don’t understand why you would pay me differently, or treat me differently, then the person next to me doing the same job.”

Park and airport officers are not required to go through SAPD’s 35-week training academy, which includes nationally-recognized programs. Rather, they attend a regional academy that includes basic peace officer training and takes 13 weeks to complete.

Park and airport officers respond only to calls withing strict boundaries, cannot address an offense above a third-degree felony, and do not conduct follow-up investigations. Those cases are passed to SAPD officers, the SAPD spokesman said.

Park and airport police typically receive the same cost of living and wage increases that certain non-uniformed City employees receive as part of the City’s step pay plan.

City Attorney Andy Segovia has not yet responded to a Rivard Report request for comment.

The terms of the San Antonio Police Officers Association’s collective bargaining agreement with the City dictate raises, health care, and other benefits. The SAPPOA has a four-year meet-and-confer agreement with the City that expires Oct. 1. That agreement encourages a collaborative style of negotiation compared to the more adversarial style of collective bargaining, thought both inspire good-faith negotiations.

Ricky J. Poole, SAPPOA’s attorney who has represented the police and firefighters unions, said that meet and confer process “failed to result in an agreement.”

The City has offered to meet with SAPPOA again in 2020, according to a letter sent to SAPPOA by Shawn Fitzpatrick, an attorney representing the City. 

In the meantime, the 2020 proposed budget includes a 4 percent cost-of-living increase to park and airport police officers as well as a $180 uniform/clothing allowance per officer. 

“The City also plans to continue to honor the expired [health] benefits in the 2013-2019 agreement during the same timeframe,” Fitzpatrick wrote.

Meanwhile, other civilian City employees on step plans will receive a 3 percent increase, according to the proposed budget.

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