Negotiations continue in San Marcos over meet and confer agreement between city, police
SAN MARCOS, Texas - Community members and activists are pushing for reforms within the city’s agreement with the San Marcos Police Officers’ Association. On Thursday afternoon, Chief Stan Standridge with SMPD addressed each of those requested reforms.
The city council voted to rescind the current agreement after local activist group Mano Amiga submitted a petition with more than a thousand signatures. The petition asked the current meet and confer agreement to be rescinded and five reforms to be added.
The 5 Hartman reforms were named for former SMPD Sgt. Ryan Hartman.
In June 2020, Hartman crashed into another car while off-duty killing Jennifer Miller, a passenger. Officers found a 24-ounce can of beer in the cupholder of Hartman’s pickup truck. Several legal documents state Hartman declined a field sobriety test at the scene, though he claimed he was never offered one in a deposition.
Hartman wasn’t disciplined by SMPD for that incident. He was later disciplined for another incident in which he tased a man but forfeited vacation time to forgo suspension. In July 2021, Hartman was suspended from the force without pay. A memorandum from Chief Stan Stanridge did not mention either of the mentioned cases but said it was due to a series of administrative errors. In 2022, Hartman was given a general discharge, meaning he could still work at another police department.
The Hartman Reforms are listed below:
- End the 180-Day RuleRepeal the statute of limitations on investigating wrongdoing by officers
- Repeal the statute of limitations on investigating wrongdoing by officers
- End Delay of Interviews for MisconductCurrently, officers are afforded 48+ hours to prepare their answers, and are provided an opportunity to review any videotape, photograph, or other materials in advance of giving an official statement.
- Currently, officers are afforded 48+ hours to prepare their answers, and are provided an opportunity to review any videotape, photograph, or other materials in advance of giving an official statement.
- End Third-Party ArbitrationCivil Service Commission is a more democratic & locally accountable alternative to the arbiter system
- Civil Service Commission is a more democratic & locally accountable alternative to the arbiter system
- Public Transparency for Personnel FilesDocumented misconduct should be available for supervising officers and the community, not hidden
- Documented misconduct should be available for supervising officers and the community, not hidden
- End Vacation Forfeiture as a Substitute to SuspensionStop letting officers preserve seniority & promotion advantages when they are disciplined for misconduct
- Stop letting officers preserve seniority & promotion advantages when they are disciplined for misconduct
Ending vacation forfeiture was top of mind for Mano Amiga representatives on Thursday.
"The most dangerous aspect of this policy is not that officers give up that vacation time or that they get to continue working rather than serving a suspension," said Sam Benavides, communications director for Mano Amiga. "For me, the most dangerous part is that they don't have that suspension on their record, and so they're able to preserve the seniority and continue to be eligible for promotion later."
Chief Standridge said on Thursday that after a previous presentation, council members are opting to stick with the status quo on that specific reform request.
He noted that if an officer opts to give up vacation time instead of suspension, they’re also giving up the option to appeal, which can cost the city tens of thousands of dollars in litigation, and still giving up pay.
"Let’s say the employee says, ‘That’s not an option, I can't give up accruals, you’re going to have to suspend me for 48 hours right now,’ not only do I lose that officer on the street, I now have to pay overtime to replace that officer," said Chief Standridge. "So there’s a financial impact to this decision, there’s a financial impact as it relates to the litigation, there’s a financial impact to backfilling the streets and there’s also a financial impact to the involved officer, they lose the same amount of money."
However, those pushing for reforms said that wasn’t the point.
"There are several strawmen that the chief keeps putting out here," said Jordan Buckley, publisher for the Caldwell/Hays Examiner. "Nobody's concerned about the financial impact; what we said is it’s about seniority and promotion."
Chief Standridge noted one relevant modification that is underway, incorporating a performance review of the past two years before any officer is promoted.
"Past performance should matter, so we are going to negotiate for a two-year historical review that will become a graded component that then determines if they should become supervisors," said Chief Standridge. "This is a huge step in the right direction."
Details surrounding the specifics of that process are unclear.
"It's not clear how that's binding in any way," said Buckley. "It's not the same way as it is statutorily, where if you're suspended, and you actually have to leave the building, and you don't just get to give up your vacation time, then it jeopardizes your ability to be promoted and to enjoy seniority."
City Manager Stephanie Reyes noted that going forward they will be posting dates for future meet and confer agreement meetings online to notify the public.