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Survivor of fatal car accident caused by SMPD Sergeant calls for “Hartman Reforms” to be adopted in new officer contract

Sierra Martin | Managing Editor

SAN MARCOS — On the second anniversary of Jennifer Miller’s death, her partner Pam Watts and local grassroots criminal-justice group Mano Amiga released several reforms they would like to see on the new San Marcos Police officer employment contract. Local activists threaten to use a ballot initiative to repeal the contract if the “Hartman Reforms” are not adopted.

The San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) and the City of San Marcos have been under public scrutiny after SMPD Sergeant Ryan Hartman crashed his truck into a Honda Accord driven by Pam Watts on June 10, 2020, in Caldwell County. Watts’ partner Jennifer Miller was killed during the crash, and Watts sustained long-term traumatic injuries.

Hartman was suspended indefinitely in January by SMPD Chief Stan Standridge due to “sustained misconduct related to dereliction of duty and insubordination.” Hartman appealed the indefinite suspension, and an arbitrator is currently reviewing his case. 

The newly proposed “Hartman Reforms” are the “End the 180-Day Rule” and repeal of the statute of limitations on investigating wrongdoing by officers. To “End Delay of Interviews for Misconduct,” due to officers being allowed 48 hours to prepare answers and review materials before giving an official statement.

“The City has repeatedly – and falsely, as exposed by KSAT – cited the 180-day rule in explaining their inaction after Hartman’s fatal wreck. Hartman was not immediately interviewed about his wrongdoing, and the police contract guaranteed he would have time to prepare answers to the specific questions he would be asked in interrogation,” Mano Amiga said in a press release. 

Additional reforms include allowing “Public Transparency for Personnel Files” and “End Third-Party Arbitration.”

“Civil Service Commission is a more democratic and locally accountable alternative to the arbiter system,” the reforms state. 

The last of the five “Hartman Reforms” is to “End Vacation Forfeiture as a Substitute to Suspension,” which advocates for not letting officers preserve seniority and promotion advantages when disciplined for misconduct. 

The City of San Marcos and San Marcos Police Officers’ Association are currently in Meet and Confer negotiations, discussing issues related to San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) wages, hours of employment and other terms and conditions of employment of SMPD officers. 

In the Meet and Confer negotiations on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, the San Marcos Police Officers’ Association said they are considering suspending the negotiations with the city due to the “Hartman Reforms” announced by Mano Amiga. The association cited San Marcos City Councilmember Alyssa Garza, also holding the position of Community Outreach with Mano Amiga, as a potential conflict of interest in their negotiations. The association said they would discuss if the councilmember’s direct involvement in the advocacy group violated any ground rules with their attorney. 

A City of San Marcos spokesperson said, “negotiations are ongoing at this time and have not been suspended,” and the city has no further comment to provide at this time. 

The City of San Marcos and San Marcos Police Officer’s Association has two more Meet and Confer meetings planned in the future, to take place on June 20 and June 27, 2022, at 9 a.m. at the San Marcos Activity Center. 

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