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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Local political organization starts petition for police reform

Eva Bowler

Local political action committee Mano Amiga Safe Communities launched a petition to create a ballot measure to repeal the civil service protections for the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD).

According to an email from Tatiana Salazar, a bilingual communications specialist with the city of San Marcos, civil service protections exist to provide job security, efficient hiring and promotion processes separate from politics, and establishes guidelines for disciplinary processes.

“The city of San Marcos adopted civil service for police and fire on Oct. 30, 1974,” Salazar said in an email. “Once established through such an election, these provisions remain in effect until repealed via another election, without the need for periodic reviews or renewals.”

The petition to repeal civil service protections comes in response to San Marcos City Council not adopting the “Hartman Reforms” when renegotiating the meet and confer agreement with the San Marcos Police Officers Association.

The Hartman Reforms are a series of proposed reforms named after Ryan Hartman, a former SMPD Sergeant who was driving with an open container when he crashed his truck into Jennifer Miller and Pamela Watts, resulting in Miller’s death. Hartman received a six-month paid suspension for the incident.

Under state law, cities are allowed to meet with the local police association to meet and negotiate what practices and policies would best serve both the police and the local community. These agreements are called meet and confer agreements.

“[City council] just gave us crumbs,” Sam Benavides, the communications director for Mano Amiga Safe Communities, said. “So we are now going after the entire process by which that contract exists.”

The Hartman Reforms seek to end the forfeiture of vacation days in lieu of suspension, end third party arbitration for disciplinary procedures, end the delay between when an incident occurs and when an officer is interviewed, make documented officer misconduct more easily available to the public and to end the 360 day rule, formerly the 180 day rule, under which misconduct incidents can only be investigated for 360 days after they occur.

“Since our city and police association clearly lack to the political will to implement these common sense reforms in good faith, we’re just going to take that power into our own hands,” Benavides said.

One of the largest goals behind the petition is to change how disciplinary procedures are handled for police.

“In any other workplace your boss can question you about your wrongdoing,” Benavides said. “That should be after any amount of time transpires and it should be the same case within a police department.”

Councilmember Mark Gleason believes the city of San Marcos should honor their negotiations with the Police Officers Association instead just meeting all of Mano Amiga Safe Communities’ demands.

“Do we understand that we are having a hard time understanding and retaining officers? There’s lots of nuances on both sides of the discussion and it is always going to be difficult,” Gleason said, during the city council’s May 16 meeting that approved the current meet and confer agreement.

Mano Amiga Safe Communities launched their petition in October at the Lost River Film Fest.

Jordan Buckley, director of the Lost River Film Fest, said he believes there is a double standard between the treatment of citizens and police when it comes to breaking the law, something he hopes the petition will help address.

“Our taxpayer money could be spent in ways that uplift and support healing instead of letting certain people go free for crimes whereas other people get locked up in cages,” Buckley said.

According to Buckley, during the meet and confer meetings SMPD Chief Stan Standridge revealed that 94% of law enforcement agencies in Texas do not have civil service protections.

“I wrote the city manager and was like ‘What was that quote Standridge said? Did he say 94% of law enforcement agencies in Texas don’t have civil service protections?'” Buckley said. “She reached out to [Standridge] and he confirmed that.”

Mano Amiga Safe Communities is looking to gather 15,000 signatures by April in order to secure having the repeal of civil service protections for SMPD on the 2024 ballot.

“We’ll still collect as many signatures as we can throughout the duration of the time that we have, even if we meet our goal early, just to continue having these conversations with our neighbors,” Benavides said.

Currently, there is no permanent location to sign the petition, but Mano Amiga Safe Communities are hoping to make it available in local businesses just like they did with their petition to decriminalize marijuana in 2022.

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