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First task force meeting about police-community relations closed to public and media

September 21, 2016 GMT

Tonight, the city is holding the first meeting of Mayor Ivy Taylor’s new Council on Police-Community Relations, but the public and members of the media will not be allowed in.

That’s according to a media advisory released by the city Tuesday night, announcing the creation of the CPCR.

The new council includes almost three dozen community leaders, among them a former county commissioner, religious leaders, a candidate for the Texas House of Representatives, police union members and a district director for a current state representative.

The public and journalists are not being allowed inside the gathering, apparently to ensure members feel comfortable participating in what Taylor’s spokeswoman Leslie Garza described as a “difficult discussion.”

“We are expecting a very personal meeting tonight where members of the CPCR will speak openly and maybe emotionally,” Garza wrote in an email, responding to questions from the Express-News about why the meeting is closed. “Some of the participants have expressed that they do not want this meeting to be a publicity stunt and would feel more comfortable without cameras in their faces.”

The original media advisory said the mayor and other participants will give interviews after 8 p.m., once the meeting has concluded.

In a follow-up email, Garza said there will not be enough council members present to designate this a public meeting, though Mayor Taylor, Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran and Councilman Alan Warrick will be in attendance.

Police Chief William McManus and City Manager Sheryl Sculley also will likely be at the meeting, said Andrew Solano, the mayor’s policy advisory and council liaison.

Solano said future meetings will likely be open to the media. But a criminal justice professor working with the group advised at least the first meeting be closed, so people feel open to freely express their concerns about the police.

The meeting will be held at the Career & Technical Education building at Sam Houston High School, 4635 E. Houston St.

The council was created in the wake of a string of police shootings of black men — often unarmed — across the country, and tense community discussions here in San Antonio after local activists unsuccessfully pushed for City Council to reject a police collective bargaining agreement because of rules that limit how much disciplinary evidence the police chief can consider when punishing officers.

vdavila@express-news.net