Council To Consider Cite & Release Ordinance On Final Reading

Staff Reports

The San Marcos City Council will consider the ordinance establishing a mandatory cite and release program on the final reading Tuesday night.

The council approved the ordinance on the first of two readings on April 7 with three amendments to the language inside the ordinance, which can be found in Sections 2 and 5 (ordinance can be viewed below.).

According to the agenda, the Criminal Justice Reform subcommittee has been studying criminal justice reform efforts “in parallel” to what is being done on the county level since it was formed in May 2019.

The ordinance will require officers to cite and release whenever possible for the following offenses, in accordance with article 14.06 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure:

  1. Class C misdemeanors other than public intoxication, assault, or family violence.
  2. Possession of Marijuana less than 4 oz, Class A or Class B misdemeanor
  3. Driving while License Invalid, Class B misdemeanor
  4. Criminal Mischief, Class B misdemeanor
  5. Graffiti, Class A or Class B misdemeanor
  6. Theft of Property, Class B misdemeanor
  7. Theft of Services, Class B misdemeanor

During the first reading, the council approved an amendment to remove the word “only” from the second paragraph of Section 2, which provides six circumstances in which an officer may find it necessary to arrest an individual instead of citing them.

The full amended paragraph is as follows:

The City Council further recognizes that the use of the cite and release process may not be appropriate in all instances, and that SMPD officers may find it necessary to arrest a person suspected of having committed any of the above-listed offenses only if any of the following circumstances are present…

The amendment was proposed twice during the meeting: once by Mayor Jane Hughson and once by Councilmember Melissa Derrick.

It passed on the second motion 4-3 with Councilmembers Mark Rockeymoore, Jocabed Marquez, and Maxfield Baker voting against.

The San Marcos community remains divided on whether the program should be implemented as an ordinance or not.

Numerous members of the community have expressed their support for a cite and release ordinance, hoping to reduce the jail population and protect the community’s low-income residents from the financial strains that can be caused by an arrest.

“I worked at the university for twenty years, where I saw lives absolutely ruined,” Derrick said during council’s March 3 discussion. “I worked in multi-cultural affairs across from the Dean of Students and watched many students, after being arrested for small amounts of marijuana, have nowhere to go after that. There’s no college; there are no scholarships. There are no job opportunities.”

The ordinance will require officers to cite and release offenders of the seven eligible offenses unless the offenders are ineligible under the Texas Code or the officers’ discretion deems the circumstances warrant an arrest.

While a majority of the council supports the ordinance, some members of the community have expressed concerns about the ordinance’s language and the potential unintended consequences, such as the loss of officers’ discretion.

Among those who are opposed to the ordinance are the San Marcos Police Association, the San Marcos Police Department and Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau.

Ordinance 2020-18, regarding Cite and Release, is listed as item number 3 on the City Council’s consent agenda, which means it may be passed without further discussion in open court.

Mano Amiga, a local activist group and supporter of the ordinance, issued a statement Sunday requesting the council postpone the item due to Saturday night’s tragedy

“Mano Amiga joins the entire San Marcos community to convey our condolences for the senseless violence that transpired last night, and the considerable harm and pain it has caused the families of those impacted, including Officer Justin Putnam, whose life was unfairly taken in the line of duty,” Mano Amiga said. “While we may not see eye to eye with San Marcos Police Department leadership on every policy issue, we do recognize the space they deserve to grieve and heal in the wake of this tragic event.” 

Former Mayor John Thomaides of San Marcos has also posted on social media asking the council to postpone the item. 

The San Marcos City Council will convene at 6 PM for a virtual meeting via Zoom, which will be streamed online and on TV (Grande Channel 16 or Spectrum Channel 10).

Written comments for a City Council meeting must be sent to citizencomment@sanmarcostx.gov no later than noon on the day of the meeting.

Written comments will be read during the public comment period by city staff.

Ordinance-2020-18 Final Reading Amended

 

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