SAPD Lieutenant Has Been Fired 6 Times. Will He Get His Job Back Again?

A San Antonio police lieutenant with a long history of disciplinary problems — including four firings and 11 suspensions — is in trouble again, accused of making a homophobic remark about Police Chief William McManus.

Lt. Lee Rakun, a 25-year veteran of the force, was indefinitely suspended twice, just days apart in June. Once was for using the derogatory slur on Facebook to describe a pair of shorts McManus was wearing while speaking at a news conference, according to department records. Rakun was suspended again for allegedly leaving his substation before his shift was over in his personal car, not his patrol vehicle, the records show.

Rakun, 49, is appealing both indefinite suspensions, which are tantamount to firings. He told Internal Affairs investigators the remark was an honest mistake. He said the social media post contained a typo that he later corrected and deleted. Still, he stood by his criticism of the chief’s attire.

“Well I do believe that it’s inappropriate for our commanding officer and leader of this department, such a major department, to be wearing in public that kind of stuff,” Rakun told Internal Affairs investigators in April. “I do believe that he should set the example and the tone by wearing a complete uniform and looking proper for people.”

McManus, before speaking at a hastily arranged news conference regarding the arrest of a man in the shooting of a 3-year-old, had donned his usual official blue shirt and tie but wore long gym shorts, instead of pants, because he said he had recently undergone knee replacement surgery.

Over Rakun’s career, four police chiefs have suspended him without pay or fired him, for a total of 17 disciplinary actions. Four times, he fought and got his job back. Through appeals, he sometimes won shorter suspensions. Still, he was suspended for about 300 days, records show. He’s an example of how officers are able to reduce their penalties or save their jobs by exercising their rights under union contracts to seek outside arbitration and get chiefs’ decisions overturned.

On June 7, the day Rakun received notification of his first indefinite suspension, his lawyer, Ben Sifuentes, appealed to the San Antonio Fire Fighters’ and Police Officers’ Civil Service Commission denying the charges.

Even if true, Sifuentes said, the alleged offenses, which were first reported by KSAT, do not warrant indefinite suspensions. Rakun is requesting full reinstatement, lost pay and benefits.

In a statement to the San Antonio Express-News, Sifuentes said the police union’s collective bargaining agreement allows lieutenants to drive their personal vehicles if they opt not to have a take-home vehicle. If Rakun was prohibited from using his personal car, his captain should have put a stop to the practice himself, Sifuentes said.

The discipline regarding the Facebook post, Sifuentes said, is retaliation because Rakun reported his captain for allegedly “engaging in inappropriate behavior.”

Sifuentes did not respond to questions about Rakun’s history of disciplinary problems.

McManus stood by his decision.

“The decision to indefinitely suspend Lt. Lee Rakun was based on the totality of the multiple rules and regulations he was found to have violated,” McManus said in a statement.

“His behavior is not what is expected of any SAPD officer but especially an officer at the command level,” he added. “His offensive social media post would have been unacceptable no matter who it was directed to.”

New officer

Rakun joined the Police Department in March 1993. Within two years, he received his first suspension.

In November 1994, police records state, then-Police Chief William Gibson issued Rakun a one-day suspension for getting involved in a fight with his in-laws while off duty, requiring other police officers to respond.

Over the next five years, Rakun received three additional suspensions, all for fairly minor infractions that amounted to suspensions of five days or less. Each time, he did not contest the allegations and ended up forfeiting vacation time in lieu of serving the suspension.

On one occasion, he received a notice of merit for helping catch a man accused of robbing a business and two customers. A sergeant wrote that Rakun’s quick response and ability to work with other officers helped apprehend the suspect quickly and without incident.

But soon, Rakun was in trouble again. In 2005, then-Chief Albert Ortiz suspended Rakun seven times, mostly for derogatory, threatening and profane comments he made in his personal and professional life.

In December 2005, he received his first indefinite suspension after he was arrested by a Kendall County sheriff’s deputy for making obscene comments. The next month, he again received an indefinite suspension for disobeying a no-contact order after being involved in an alleged dating violence incident.

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