San Marcos Police Get the Reckoning Advocates Have Been Waiting For

Not-so-sexy AF

San Marcos Police Headquarters (Photo by John Anderson)

In February, San Marcos seized the title of First City to Ever Repeal a Police Contract in Texas. But how?

Hays County is in a state of political flux – a blue wave struck the formerly conservative-controlled county south of Austin in November, when the San Marcos Police Officers Association lobbied the public to reject the "Reeferendum," a ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana, but only garnered a paltry 18% of the vote. Now, the county seat's progressive tilt has generated enough pressure to take away the upper hand police unions so often seem to have when negotiating labor contracts with Texas cities.

Last year, Hays County nonprofit Mano Amiga (whose action-committee offshoot led Reeferendum efforts) together with Pam Watts – whose partner died in an accident caused by a San Marcos police officer in 2020 – drafted a slate of reforms they demanded the city incorporate into contract negotiations with the police association. The city balked, so the advocates walked – knocking doors and gathering signatures to put the inadequate contract before San Marcos voters.

Given the recent left-lean of San Marcos' electorate, rather than allow a ballot-box defeat of the police contract (which outlines boosted wages and special protections for cops accused of misdeeds), the very City Council that approved the agreement in September instead opted last month to repeal it with a 4-3 vote.

The so-called Hartman Reforms comprise five proposed changes to the contract, each of which relate to its disgraced namesake Sgt. Ryan Hartman. After Hartman smashed into Watts' vehicle with an open Dos Equis tallboy in his cupholder in 2020, in 2021 he used a stun gun to electroshock a young man who stood compliant, hands in the air, moments after Hartman told colleagues, "I'm going to tase this guy."

One of the Hartman Reforms is an end to the delay of police interviews for misconduct allegations; currently, cops are afforded 48 hours to ready their answers, including the ability to first review the complaint against them as well as any useful files, videos, or photos.

“This is not a San Marcos thing, this is not even a Texas law enforcement thing – this is actually a science thing.” – San Marcos Police Chief Stan Standridge

However, newly obtained public documents reveal that last year, San Marcos Police Department Day Shift Cmdr. Rich Mizanin enjoyed closer to two weeks to prepare a response for his misconduct: sending unwanted sexual advances to women colleagues by way of his work phone. Mizanin – one of the highest-ranking members of the department – was suspended, unpaid, for the first half of September.

Mizanin acknowledged in a text message to one of his accusers on April 8 that he was under investigation for his harassment ("Can you call? It's like job serious. Basically, I'm under HR/IA.") even though SMPD Chief Stan Standridge's letter of suspension states Mizanin was first informed of the complaint on April 19.

That's at least an 11-day heads-up on a policy violation so serious that Standridge described it in his notification as "cause for removal" – supplemented by the additional 48-hour period enshrined in the police contract.

One of Mizanin's unsolicited communications – with an employee two ranks below his commander designation – mixed compliments on her physical appearance ("You want to be attractive and you are," and, "Zero stress that I am scamming on you. But you know you are attractive") with suggestions that she deserved a promotion ("You did one of the best backgrounds we have read. If you have time you should be assigned more off the next list").

Standridge's letter further reports that following a meeting with the agency's Event Review Board investigators to dig into allegations of his wrongdoing, Mizanin summoned to his office one of the women he harassed, where he reiterated his belief that she was "sexy AF."

She told investigators she thought to herself, "Did you not think I was serious? Are you testing the perimeter fences, like a fucking velociraptor?"

Ultimately, Mizanin was compelled to sign a Last Chance Agreement, keeping his job as commander, but acknowledging his indefinite suspension should he engage in any retaliation or sexual harassment in the future.

At a meet and confer meeting on March 23, where Standridge led a standing­-room-only presentation on why the city and police remain resolute in rebuffing the Hartman Reforms, the chief lectured on the supposed empirical basis for permitting cops a few days to get their stories straight.

"This is not a San Marcos thing, this is not even a Texas law enforcement thing – this is actually a science thing," Standridge explicated, referencing research by the Law Enforcement Executive Forum that propounds the importance of allotting accused cops two sleep cycles to ensure optimal memory recall.

Today, March 30, San Marcos is due to "lock in" final issues for negotiation in the months ahead in their do-over attempt at hammering out a contract in the wake of the first and only such repeal in Lone Star State history.

Jordan Buckley is a co-founder of Mano Amiga and left in 2022. He now muckrakes for grassroots media outlet Caldwell/Hays Examiner.

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