San Antonio, TX – A Democratic congressman is defending himself after telling voters to watch out for police, after he claims people think that President Trump sent the police to polling locations to intimidate them.
Now, two days after the congressman told voters to report any “uniformed law enforcement” officers at early voting locations, the San Antonio police chief caved in and ordered his officers to stay away from the polls.
U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro, who is in the midst of a contested race, issued his public request on Monday.
“San Antonians – while I was at the Las Palmas early voting site this morning two police officers patrolled through the parking lot,” Castro tweeted. “Please let me know if other uniformed law enforcement is present at any polls. Joaquin.”
Castro later claimed that he issued the request out of concern about a tweet President Donald Trump posted on Oct. 20, in which he cautioned people about the legal risks associated with voter fraud, KSAT reported.
“All levels of government and Law Enforcement are watching carefully for VOTER FRAUD, including EARLY VOTING,” President Trump wrote. “Cheat at your own peril. Violators will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal!”
In a statement to KSAT, Castro alleged that “many” felt the President’s tweet was “an attempt at voter intimidation,” and claimed that voters “reached out” to him when they saw San Antonio officers at some polling locations.
“On behalf of those who reached out, I am troubled that increased police presence could be a result of the President’s comments,” he said.
Castro further noted that the San Antonio Police Officer’s Association (SAPOA) has displayed “strong and public support of Donald Trump,” referring to a 2016 incident in which 23 officers were disciplined for wearing “Make America Great Again” hats as they posed for a photo with the President on a campaign stop.
On Wednesday morning, San Antonio Assistant Police Chief James Flavin issued an email instructing the city’s officers to “refrain from” parking or patrolling in polling areas “unless they receive a call for service,” KSAT reported.
“I have received information our officers have been observed patrolling through and remaining stationary in the parking lots at polling [early voting] locations around the City the last couple of days,” Chief Flavin wrote.
“While the officers have done nothing wrong in patrolling these sites as part of their normal duties, we must consider the viewpoints of those citizens who may have concerns about the presence of authority figures such as police officers in close proximity to a location where voting is taking place,” he continued.
“With this in mind, please instruct your officers to refrain from patrolling through or parking in close proximity to polling locations in the city unless they receive a call for service to the address,” the email read.
The SAPOA blasted the department for caving to the demands of the congressman, and admonished San Antonio Police Chief William McManus for failing to defend his officers.
“At a time when people across San Antonio are voting, when we are seeing an increase in confrontations and assaults on public officials at restaurants and other public venues, and when suspicious packages are being mailed to media and others, U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro has called on the people of San Antonio to report on police officers ‘present at any polls,’” the SAPOA said in a press release on Wednesday.
“It’s no surprise that Congressman Castro views law enforcement so negatively, but his call for citizens to fear and report on police officers carrying out their duty is an insult to every officer and their family,” the release read.
The SAPOA press release noted that instead of questioning “why enforcement officers doing routine patrols was a problem for Rep. Castro,” Chief McManus responded in a way that made it appear that officers were the problem.
“It’s also very sad that instead of standing up for his officers, Chief McManus essentially agrees with Rep. Castro that police officers are people to be feared and reported on for doing their duty,” the press release read.
“The San Antonio Police Officers Association urges Chief McManus to stand up for police officers and not give in to Rep. Castro’s fear-mongering and anti-police rhetoric,” the union said.