Police Abuse

How San Antonio's Worst Cops Get Their Jobs Back

Thanks to the police union, bad officers don't stay fired for long.


Matthew Luckhurst of the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) tried to feed a homeless man a sandwich made of dog feces. While Luckhurst was initially fired for such crappy behavior, Reason reported in March 2019 that his employment was fully restored.

Luckhurst was able to rejoin the force following an arbitration hearing required by the collective bargaining agreement the San Antonio Police Officers Association has with the city. Since the department could not prove the exact date of the crap sandwich incident, the department had no choice but to accept that it missed the 180-day window in which it could discipline Luckhurst, and the arbitration panel ruled in Luckhurst's favor.

The San Antonio Current reported this week that Luckhurst's story is not an exception to the rule. Twenty-seven of the 40 SAPD police officers fired between 2010 and 2019 have managed to get their jobs back through arbitration. Only 13 firings were upheld in that entire time.

Other officers who have benefitted from arbitration include an officer fired for using the N-word while arresting a black suspect and an officer who challenged a prisoner to a fistfight in exchange for his freedom.

The union has long erected barriers that make it difficult to keep bad officers off the force. The union once thwarted suggested reforms and then used them to negotiate a substantial pay increase. One of the suggested reforms at the time would have allowed supervisors to consider suspensions older than two years to factor into discipline for new offenses. The union has also called for the resignation of a chief who angered the group by attempting to reform use-of-force policies.