On Thursday, the San Antonio Police Department held a press conference to discuss the failure of their Special Victims Unit to properly investigate 130 cases. SVU is responsible for investigating crimes like sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. Some of those cases are now ineligible for prosecution.
The San Antonio Express-News reports that Police Chief William McManus told reporters that an unnamed detective is considered the source of the problem, but if other officers are discovered to be involved they will receive disciplinary action. The department has already transferred a supervising lieutenant and two sergeants from the unit.
City Manager Sheryl Sculley said in a press release that they were unable to go into more detail about the suspected culprit because of the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the police union, according to the San Antonio Current:
“It is absolutely imperative that victims ... have the utmost confidence that their case will be investigated immediately and thoroughly and with the highest level of sensitivity and professionalism,” Sculley said.
“There is a lot more that I want to say about this, but federal law and provisions in the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the police union prevent me from doing so at this time.”
The discrepancy was discovered about a month ago, when SVU supervisors noticed that the number of cases filed at the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office had gone down. The unit was audited, which led to an Internal Affairs investigation that is still ongoing, according to McManus. The detective the Chief mentioned had already been reassigned before this investigation began, but there is no information as to why.
The City Attorney’s Office has now launched an external audit of the Special Victims Unit, and if it’s there is proof that the detective in question neglected their official duties, they may be criminally prosecuted for tampering with evidence and documents. It is the belief of McManus that they were negligent, not malicious.
The statute of limitations means that some of the cases will not be prosecuted, though McManus says that in instances where they can complete cases dropped or misfiled by the offending officer, the department has done so.