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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 action committee submits police reform signatures

Lucas Kraft
Eric Martinez, executive director of Mano Amiga Safe Communities, speaks outside San Marcos City Hall before submitting signatures to repeal the San Marcos Police Department’s civil service protections on April 30, 2024.

Mano Amiga Safe Communities submitted almost 700 signatures to the city clerk to repeal civil service protections for the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) on April 30, with hopes to force a ballot measure in November.

Local Government Code Chapter 143 controls the rules related to hiring, firing and disciplinary procedures for police and fire departments in municipalities with more than 10,000 residents. Mano Amiga Safe Communities’ petition would repeal Chapter 143 protections just for SMPD, leaving civil service protections for the fire department.

“When an officer does something bad and you go to their boss, [their boss] has to check if there’s some window [to investigate] that runs out, if there’s a specific policy they need to refer to,” Mano Amiga Safe Communities Executive Director Martinez said in a previous interview with The University Star. “So the police chief’s hands are tied from making sure we have the highest [quality] of law enforcement officers in our community.”

Martinez said the petition was motivated by the failure of San Marcos City Council and the San Marcos Police Officers’ Association to adopt police reforms during meet-and-confer negotiations.

Under the current system, there are numerous rules SMPD must follow when an alleged instance of police wrongdoing occurs. Those include waiting up to two days before interviewing involved officers, allowing vacation forfeitures instead of suspensions and being allowed to discipline for incidents that happened in the last 360 days.

Mano Amiga Safe Communities believes repealing the protections under Chapter 143 will increase the accountability of police officers and quality of policing done by SMPD.

“We want police transparency, that when law enforcement officers break the law, that will be held accountable by the city council, by the police chief and the city manager,” Martinez said. “As it clearly stands civil service [protections] don’t allow it.”

In a written statement emailed to The University Star, the Combine Law Enforcement Association of Texas (CLEAT) condemned the petition efforts, saying groups like Mano Amiga Safe Communities “make a living misleading the public”.

CLEAT also said removing Chapter 143 protection would threaten the integrity of police and subject policing to more political influence.

“Law enforcement professional standards require more training and higher education levels in municipalities and counties that have adopted civil service,” the CLEAT statement stated. “The recruiting, hiring, promoting, discipline and termination of officers should remain standardized, transparent and honest.”

Under the city charter, only 10% of the number of people who voted in the last city election need to sign the petition to force a ballot measure. Martinez said his group needed 440 signatures to force a ballot measure and received slightly more than 700 signatures.

According to Martinez, pending confirmation by the city clerk of the validity of the signatures on the submitted petitions and a vote by the city council, the ballot measure to repeal civil service should appear on the November ballot.

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