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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

San Marcos community must help Mano Amiga repeal Chapter 143

Adriana Villanueva

In a step toward increasing accountability for local law enforcement, Mano Amiga Safe Communities plans to submit a petition to repeal Local Government Code Chapter 143 by the end of April. The petition deserves support, as it aims to keep San Marcos safe and prevent law enforcement from abusing its power.

The code provides civil service protections for the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD). Civil service protections standardize the hiring process and outline steps for charging an officer with a crime. Some of these protections, however, have been abused to help officers evade disciplinary action for wrongdoing in the past.

On June 10, 2020, off-duty officer Sgt. Ryan Hartman crashed into Pamela Watts and Jennifer Miller’s car, injuring Watts and tragically taking Miller’s life. Reports later found Hartman was on the phone, failed to brake while running multiple stop signs and had an open can of Dos Equis beer in the vehicle. After an investigation, Hartman was reinstated and only charged with running a stop sign.

Eric Martinez, executive director for Mano Amiga, said there was a large discrepancy between the crime Hartman committed and the consequences he faced.

“[Mano Amiga was] informed by the current police chief that his hands were tied by Chapter 143 civil service codes,” Martinez said. “That’s when we first heard about civil service codes as a barrier to accountability.”

The failure to hold Hartman accountable for his actions was an insult to the San Marcos community. His actions were awful, but the lack of consequences only intensified the problem. Nothing could make up for the loss of Miller, but there should have been a more appropriate response from SMPD beyond a brief suspension.

Chapter 143 limits how long after an incident SMPD officials can punish officer wrongdoing. This limit works in favor of police officers, allowing for investigations to stall out any opportunity for disciplinary action.

Martinez said this policy hinders holding officers accountable and is abused to let them get away with transgressive actions.

“If you are an officer… if you are doing something wrong… it shouldn’t matter whether something occurred six months ago or one year ago,” Martinez said. “If it arises to the level of necessitating disciplinary action by a supervisor, it should be allowed to [be punished].”

The obstacle of Chapter 143 needs to go. Allowing this policy to cause further harm to victims and their families is a failure to the community. It is not fair to uphold a system that allows police officers to walk away with minimal consequences for their actions.

As such, Mano Amiga started a petition to repeal Chapter 143 in October 2023, a further attempt to seek justice from city council and SMPD. Martinez said the goal behind the petition and repealing Chapter 143 is more accountability and the opportunity to take action against flagrant misdeeds.

“When an officer does something egregious, [we] can go to the city council, go to the police chief, raise it with the supervisor and then that supervisor has the power to take action,” Martinez said.

Mano Amiga is laying the groundwork for creating a better San Marcos community. The organization has an impressive portfolio, constantly advocating for those in need and making contributions toward solid change. Efforts with repealing Chapter 143 are progressing and deserve continued support from San Marcos citizens.

To support Mano Amiga, Martinez said the community must build around advocacy and sharing experiences.

“It is helpful to be connected to a community of others who share a similar experience,” Martinez said. “For far too long, we’ve had our culture of violence with regard to police accountability and police abuse in this community. Being able to be connected with a group of like-minded individuals…is incredibly uplifting.

The petition needs at least 500 signatures, and if successful, Mano Amiga will put Chapter 143 on the local ballot in November. At that point, however, it’s up to the greater San Marcos community to show up to the polls and vote in favor of repealing this policy. After the work Mano Amiga has put in, the organization deserves our support.

-Samuel Marentes is an English junior

The University Star welcomes Letters to the Editor from its readers. All submissions are reviewed and considered by the Editor in Chief and Opinions Editor for publication. Not all letters are guaranteed for publication.

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