San Marcos residents adamant for police accountability as city negotiates new police contract
SAN MARCOS, Texas - There are concerns about police accountability in San Marcos. Some residents are calling for transparency as the city negotiates a new police contract. This comes after the city council canceled the approved police contract, the first to ever do so in Texas.
The San Marcos City Council repealed the police contract and now negotiations are underway.
San Marcos residents and local activists with Mano Amiga have proposed five reforms to the San Marcos Police Contract base on how prior incidents involving San Marcos officers have been handled.
They’re called the Hartman reforms named after former Sergeant Ryan Hartman who was fired from the San Marcos Police Department.
In June 2020, Hartman, while off-duty, was involved in a crash that killed Jennifer Miller and critically injured her partner, Pamela Watts, in Lockhart. Hartman was only given a Class C-misdemeanor for distracted driving.
The Hartman reforms include ending the 180-day statute of limitations rule, ending "delay of interview" for alleged police misconduct, more public transparency for personnel files, ending third-party arbitration, and no longer allowing vacation forfeiture as a substitute for suspension.
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"It’s good that Chief is disciplining these officers, but just forfeiting vacation or holiday pay isn’t true discipline," Caldwell/Hays Examiner Publisher Jordan Buckley said.
San Marcos Police Chief Stan Standridge said it’s the same financial impact to the employee.
"You pay now, or you pay later. Either way, you still lose," Chief Standridge said.
Chief Standridge said this policy saves the city money because they’re waiving their appeal, so no litigation costs, and it saves on overtime costs.
"There’s a financial impact to back filling the streets," Chief Standridge said.
Records show if that was the case now, it would have prevented one officer from being promoted.
Records obtained by FOX 7 show San Marcos Police Officer John Cope received a written complaint on May 24, 2022, for police violations related to offensive racial slurs. The documents show Cope admitted to saying to another employee, "There were no minorities in Montana." In another situation, Cope is accused of saying, "Females shouldn’t be cops and cops shouldn’t be females."
On June 11, during the investigation, Cope received a promotion to Corporal with a pay increase. On July 12, Cope was found guilty of four different department violations and received a notice of temporary suspension and mandatory re-training.
"Chief Sean telling us to trust him with a two-year historic review whenever a two-week historic review into John Cope should have thwarted his promotion and his boosted pay," Buckley said.
Cope elected to forfeit vacation or holiday time equal to the length of the suspension without loss of paid salary and no break in service and signed a waiver of appeal.
"I think the glaring hypocrisy of our department of a chief who proclaims that he’s instituting a strong culture of accountability and yet sees no problem with letting officers come right back to work after they engage in offensive racial slurs or denigrating females," Buckley said.
The San Marcos City Council has until June 7 to produce a new contract.