San Marcos Police Contract Negotiations Are Back On

Local advocates get a win

San Marcos Police Department may end up with reforms local advocates are pushing for after all (Photo by John Anderson)

While the city of Austin has terminated its city manager partly over his handling of the forthcoming police contract, San Marcos is dealing with its own ongoing police contract negotiations.

Criminal justice advocates at Mano Amiga surprised themselves Feb. 7 by successfully pressuring the San Marcos City Council to cancel a recently approved police contract. The 4-3 vote means the contract, which had been criticized for failing to strengthen police accountability, will be renegotiated.

"Our team is both shocked and thrilled with the results of this evening's vote," said Sam Benavides, Mano Amiga's communications director. "But I think it speaks to just how reasonable our demands are. We've spent the last six months educating our community about what the demands mean and the role they've played in allowing cops to evade discipline when they inflict violence upon our neighbors."

The demands Benavides refers to are five provisions that Mano Amiga worked to get into the contract during the city's negotiation with the San Marcos Police Officers Assoc­ia­tion last summer. Called the "Hartman Reforms," they are named after former officer Ryan Hartman, who ran a stop sign while speeding and using his cellphone in June of 2020, causing an accident that killed Jennifer Miller.

Lockhart police recommended that Hartman be charged with criminally negligent homicide, but the district attorney who oversaw the case instead proposed a speeding ticket. Hartman's superiors on the San Marcos police force conducted no investigation of their own and he returned to duty six months after the crash, while Miller's partner Pam Watts has pushed for accountability for Hartman ever since. He was fired for unrelated misconduct in 2022.

The Hartman Reforms would end rules that allow SMPD only 180 days to investigate allegations of officer misconduct and that give officers 48 hours to review evidence against them before answering investigators' questions, among other things. It would also open the secret files that SMPD keeps on their officers to make misconduct allegations publicly available. None of these reforms made it into the contract that was adopted in the fall, even after members of Mano Amiga sat in on the negotiations. The group said it will attend upcoming negotiations as well, which have until June 7 to produce a new contract.

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