San Antonio, TX – When we met with VIA Executives last month, we were hopeful. After changing their board meeting date at the last minute, representatives from VIA sat down with us for a good faith conversation about VIA police accountability. Following a 13-month period of high-profile incidents (including two in-custody deaths), and multiple successful attempts to deny Open Records requests, we are extremely disappointed to hear VIA Transit Police Chief Mark Witherell does not plan to ban chokeholds OR create a policy for releasing body camera footage.
Chief Witherell’s excuses lack substance and undermine the voice of the community.
There are precedents for all of ACT 4 SA’s demands for accountability. Bans on chokeholds and a policy for releasing body cam footage are the bare minimum items that transit officers should agree to. Chokehold bans are prevalent within U.S. law enforcement agencies across the country including SAPD. Both SAPD and BCSO are required to release body cam footage for critical incidents to the public, within 60 days and 10 days, respectively. VIA has worked with the Attorney General’s office again and again to withhold body cam footage in MULTIPLE CASES.
If VIA transit police have the same capabilities as the other law enforcement agencies in San Antonio, then they should be held to the same accountability standards.
During an April 29th meeting, VIA’s own board agreed that more could be done to inform the public about VIA PD’s role in the community. Almost a month later, and ACT 4 SA has yet to receive responses on many of the reforms the community requested.
This is inexcusable. This is not accountability. This is another example of law enforcement skirting the wishes of the community and we will not allow it. We stand by our achievable demands, and it’s time for VIA to answer to the community.
We are asking the public to speak up about VIA Transit police accountability, and to join us at VIA’s June 28th board meeting so we can further these discussions.
ACT 4 SA empowers the San Antonio community through year-round base building, grassroots actions, educational campaigns, and more to achieve the accountable, compassionate, and transparent public safety system we all deserve.