On Tuesday night, the chief of police in San Antonio announced that the more than one dozen police officers who were recently seen wearing the red Trump campaign “Make America Great Again” hats while they were in uniform will be disciplined. There was a short video of the officers in the Donald Trump hats sent out from the presidential candidate’s Twitter account.
The official Twitter account for the San Antonio Police Department tweeted out the statement from Chief William McManus. In it, he stated that the officers would be disciplined because they had violated department policy by wearing the candidate’s “Make America Great Again hats.
“SAPD officers are charged with protecting the entire community. The officers displayed poor judgment. I expect them to know better than to give the appearance of endorsing a candidate while on duty and in uniform, regardless of the political campaign, or the candidate.”
The Donald Trump campaign had been in San Antonio and Dallas on Tuesday and the members of the police department who appeared in his video had been tasked with escorting the Trump motorcade. Every member of the department’s motorcycle unit tasked with the escort wore the hats, and they ended up being used as part of a 25-second campaign video stating that America will be made safe again. Some of the police officers can be seen giving Trump a thumbs-up as he thanked them.
Mayor Ivy Taylor expressed similar sentiments to the chief and also took to Twitter to denounce the actions of the members of the San Antonio motorcycle unit who wore the candidate’s hat.
Mayor Taylor ensured that she used the twitter handle for the department as she wrote, “Deeply disappointed by@SATXPolice officers’ lack of judgement today. Police must be above politics & serve everyone equally… Everything they do should send that message and today’s actions did not.”
City Attorney Andy Segovia has sent a request to the Trump campaign to remove the video from the social media channels that it has surfaced on. For their part, the San Antonio Police Officers Association has responded to the incident and attempted to downplay the implications and seriousness of the police officers wearing those hats.
The association said, “The officers were most likely caught up in the moment and did not consider the political nature of their actions.”
The public has not been advised of the exact form of discipline that the officers will face. Mike Helle, the president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association, said that he is certain they will not face heavy punishment.
“It seems kind of benign. They’d probably get a written reprimand or counseling to not do that sort of thing on duty.”
However, as the Christian Science Monitor reported, this is not the first time that a promotional video for Donald Trump’s campaign has featured uniformed officers appear in it. In the previous instance, the police officers were from Phoenix, Arizona, and appeared in a TV ad that showed the officers having a conversation with the Republican nominee while on-duty and in their uniforms. The police said that they had not deliberately set out to imply any support for Trump, though, and not only had they been unaware of being filmed but had not given any permission for the images to be used in the ad. Last month, the city of Phoenix sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Trump campaign in order to have the video taken down.
The question of police bias is a controversial topic that has received increased attention during this election after several high-profile incidents which saw an apparent endorsement of various political candidates by officers in their uniforms.
The defense that the officers should be able to express their right to freedom of speech has been prominently used, but those who oppose have argued that not only does that practice violate policy, but it also sets a tone that insults democracy. The city’s policy prohibits their employees from participating in political activity while they are acting in an official capacity.
[Featured Image by Jae C. Hong/AP Images]