San Marcos' contract with police was repealed. What happens now?
San Marcos has fewer than 120 days to renegotiate its contract with the police union after repealing the deal earlier this week. No meeting dates or deadlines have been set yet.
The contract, which was renewed in October, was meant to last through Sept. 30, 2025.
San Marcos Councilwoman Alyssa Garza said the negotiation process is complicated and takes a lot of time, but she doesn't see it as a surprise that community members are asking for police accountability.
"It's been brewing for a while," Garza said. "With all of these stories of our neighbors coming forward, regarding their experiences with the police department. ... I'm not surprised at all. It's unfortunate."
KUT was unable to reach a representative from the San Marcos Police Officer's Association for comment before publication.
Mano Amiga Safety, a local activist organization, has been pushing for months to make changes to the contract. Group members want it to include the five "Hartman Reforms,” which they say are meant to increase police transparency and accountability.
The Hartman Reforms are named after Ryan Hartman, a San Marcos Police Department sergeant. In June 2020, Hartman was driving off duty when he crashed his truck into Pam Watts' vehicle, severely injuring her and killing her partner, Jennifer Miller.
Body camera footage revealed an open 24-ounce Dos Equis beer can in Hartman's vehicle. He refused to take a breath test at the scene. Hartman got a ticket for running a stop sign and was temporarily placed on paid administrative leave.
Hartman got a ticket for running a stop sign and was temporarily placed on paid administrative leave. A grand jury eventually decided there was not enough evidence to charge him with criminally negligent homicide.
He was fired last year for unrelated reasons.
On June 10, the two-year anniversary of Miller's death, Watts and Mano Amiga Safety began working together to create the Hartman Reforms and encourage the city to include them in its contract with the police.
In September, the contract was approved without the desired changes.
"I believe in law and order. I am pro-police," Watts said at a City Council meeting last month. "We need them. They do a dangerous job. They serve a purpose. A serious one, but there are bad apples in every barrel. And when they've shown themselves to not be compliant with the law, themselves, there should be oversight."
The advocacy group gathered 1,300 signatures in four weeks from community members who believe the contract should go back to the drawing board and include the Hartman Reforms.
The petition gave the San Marcos City Council two options: repeal the contract and begin renegotiations with the police union or let the people decide whether to repeal the contract by putting it on the ballot in the May election.
The San Marcos City Council voted 4-3 on Tuesday to go into immediate renegotiation. Mano Amiga Safety advocates said they will continue to oppose the contract until it includes all five Hartman Reforms:
- End 180-day rule: Advocates hope the new contract ends the time limit on investigating officer wrongdoing, which currently stands at 180 days. In a video taken at a vigil for Miller, Police Chief Stan Standridge said he was unable to discipline Hartman because the 180-day statute of limitation had passed.
End delay of interviews for misconduct: Officers accused of misconduct are currently able to review videos and photos used as evidence more than 48 hours before giving an official statement.
"It basically allows them more time to craft their story," Elle Cross, Mano Amiga Safety's right to justice coordinator, said. "This provides a special protection for cops that victims of violence are not even afforded.”
End third-party arbitration: An arbitrator is an out-of-court neutral party that helps resolve a dispute between a worker and an employer.
Mano Amiga Safety says the employment of police officers should be handled by a local entity, such as the San Marcos Civil Service Commission, which already oversees police and fire department recruitment and promotions.
Advocates say it would create a “more democratic and locally accountable alternative to the arbiter system.”
- Public transparency for personnel files: Advocates are requesting for any documented misconduct to be made publicly available to supervising officers and the community.
End forfeiting vacation days as a substitute for suspension: SMPD officers are granted the opportunity to give up paid vacation instead of facing suspension.
“Ryan Hartman actually did that,” Cross said. “After he tased a compliant young man, instead of getting any discipline on his record, he was afforded the opportunity to give up one week of paid vacation instead of having that suspension on his record.”
Cross said she’s concerned about the lack of suspensions on record because it means those officers are still eligible for promotions.
"These are really low-bar reforms," she said. "It's the bare minimum transparency and accountability in holding police officers to the same standard as other people"
Sam Benavides, Mano Amiga Safety communications director, said dozens of community members packed the City Council meeting Tuesday. She said she didn’t expect council to immediately repeal the police contract.
“We were really shocked,” Benavides said, “but elated that they decided to listen to the community members who showed up and packed the room and convinced them to rescind the contract immediately and begin renegotiations immediately.”