New ordinance could increase transparency within San Marcos PD

Hays

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — The San Marcos City Council is working on a new ordinance — it encourages police officers to write more citations and make fewer arrests for misdemeanor crimes.

It follows the release of a 2018 report that found officers only wrote 20 such citations.

And all 72 African-American people who could have received a citation were arrested instead.

Council member Mark Rockeymoore found himself in that situation in 2005.

“At that time I thought about it, I was like, ‘Why was I arrested when I didn’t necessarily have to be?’” he recalls.

Rockeymoore spent about an hour in jail for a domestic incident but his misdemeanor was eligible for cite and release.

“Which is a process that our police utilize to divert people from the criminal justice system that may not necessarily need to be there,” he explains.

A Hays County report released in September revealed a trend in the city’s police department over the year 2018.

“For the black population in particular, every individual who was arrested went to jail. None of them got the option of cite and release,” Rockeymoore says.

San Marcos City Council member Mark Rockeymoore agrees with advocates who say the proposed ordinance is the first step is one of many in addressing a systemic issue. (KXAN/Tahera Rahman)

“It’s something that begs the question of, ‘Why weren’t these people afforded this opportunity?’

Now a San Marcos city council member, he’s pushing for a new ordinance that would encourage more officers to use the policy more often and provide council with quarterly reports.

“Sometimes the worst day of your life doesn’t have to affect you for the rest of your life. And if an officer has an opportunity to help someone out in a bad situation then I think that opportunity should be taken,” Rockeymoore says.

Minority rights advocate Faylita Hicks also wants to see a forum for the public to offer feedback to San Marcos police.

“Right now it seems as though it’s just police officers talking to police officers,” says Hicks, an organizer for Mano Amiga.

Activist group Mano Amiga has been pushing for three main demands in San Marcos after September’s report. (MANO AMIGA)

“Community members don’t have an opportunity to talk to the officers about some of their experiences and I think that’s going to be really important moving forward,” she says.

She says the proposed policy for transparency is long overdue.

“In the past few months it’s taken for city council to kind of make that decision, how many people have been arrested and put into jail and have missed out on opportunities to take care of job or home or family because they spent one or two nights or even longer sitting in the jail pretrial?” Hicks says.

Still, she sees the accountability as progress.

“It’s only a first step but that first step is everything,” Hicks says.

The new cite and release ordinance is still being drafted in a committee.

It includes room for officer discretion, which means although encouraged to use cite and release, cops can still decide whether they want to or not.

Advocates with Mano Amiga want to make citations required by default and arrests a rare exception.

Council member Rockey Moore says he hopes to have the ordinance passed by council by the end of the year.

He says right now, there is unanimous support.

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