Item 01: School Resource Officers

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COSM_Admin

Administrator
Staff member
Hold discussion related to the Interlocal Agreement between City of San Marcos and the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District (SMCISD) relating to the City’s provision of Officers to serve as School Resource Officers, and provide direction to the City Manager.
 

COSM_Admin

Administrator
Staff member
Questions posed by CM Baker, responses provided Chief Standridge and Director of Public Safety, Chase Stapp:
Thanks for sending this over. If I'm understanding your response correctly, the agenda item is so specifically defined as to whether "we give you permission to sign the agreement" that we can't critique SRO programs, or consider the verbiage within the agreement itself; even though that would be the basis on which I would decide that I wouldn't want you to sign the agreement? Staff posed this question to Mr. Cosentino this morning. He believes that it is permissible for a Council Member to share this type of critique of programs in general as part of their discussion about support for the item or lack thereof.

I made my concerns well known at the last meeting as well as in several emails. I have also asked that this be an agenda item for the Criminal Justice Reform Committee but for some reason have been denied that request. But sure, I'll enumerate my concerns regarding School Resource Officers again:
  1. The actual organization of the agreement seems to situate the concern for school property over student safety and wellness. This was addressed in the Chief’s memo which is attached.
  2. The agreement clearly states that only Officers that are trained SROs will be used but I was told that non-SRO officers fill in due to shortages. This occurs infrequently, and when it does, officers and/or corporals who have already attended School Based Law Enforcement training are allowed to replace SROs. This ensures consistency in training and application of juvenile law.
  3. Moving Officers that don't work out well from one school to another doesn't not seem like a good fix. This was addressed in the Chief’s attached memo.
  4. I believe that the SRO agreement should require a survey of Faculty, Staff, and Students. The Chief previously agreed to a survey in collaboration with the District. However, he would prefer the survey wait until Texas State University’s research (A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Comprehensive, Research-Based Framework for Implementing School-Based Law Enforcement) is finished. The District is currently under contract with the University in furtherance of a comprehensive framework to address: all stakeholders; goals; training; data collection and analyzing; improved school climate; decreased use of exclusionary discipline; reduced victimization and offending behavior.
  5. The SMCISD and the SMPD conduct an annual report of how they are treating students and to what effect we may be over criminalizing students. If we want to call a program a success, we should identify what measurement we're using. It is very important to note that police do not criminalize behavior. The definition of criminalize is to turn an activity into a criminal offense by making it illegal. Police do not establish laws or ordinances. Elected bodies establish those, including the City Council. The police do, however, enforce existing statutes. An annual report should be done in conjunction with any surveys, and after the best practices are fully contemplated post-research (between University and District).
  6. Officers should not be able to Counsel students in privet regarding any matter. Body cameras should be turned on for all one-on-one interactions with any student for any reason. Officers provide counseling related to the criminal justice system. If an offender is sentenced to probation by Juvenile Probation, for example, then the student will frequently interact with SROs and juvenile officers to discuss improvements and next steps. This is part of restorative justice. The juvenile system is predicated on rehabilitation, not punishment. SROs do not provide counseling in a more generic sense. SROs are subject to the same policy requirements as other SMPD officers relative to Body Camera use which require officers to activate the camera during all official contacts whether related to a call for service or an officer-initiated contact.
  7. I don't believe that §4.8 B. "Promote the concept of punishment for criminal acts" should be included, since as I suggested this would bolster anti-immigrant sentiments. Title 3 of the Family Code is titled: Juvenile Justice Code. It codifies all provisions related to juvenile law, so peace officers are subject to the content regardless of this ILA (even non-SROs). So, what does the statement actually mean? Juvenile law was originally codified in 1973. “Unfortunately, the 1973 Family Code was written for a different kind of juvenile offender from the type we presently have. The Texas juvenile justice system at the time was not fully equipped to deal with the number of juveniles committing offenses or with the extreme violence frequently perpetrated by juveniles.” (The 2020 Juvenile Justice Handbook) Yet, a core goal remained: educate juveniles on existing laws to ensure they do not violate them. It is akin to posting stop signs and other regulatory signs. If we expect compliance, rules must be posted, known, discussed, and otherwise, made a part of societal fabric. As for immigration, this is a non-issue, as said before. The law prevents it, and so does the ILA.
  8. The wording in §2.3 seems to perpetuate closed door decisions regarding police accountability as it relates to Officers that may have caused harm to a student or proven unfit to work within Schools. What access does the public have to the information about the Officers that work at our schools? SMPD Officers assigned to the SRO program have the same rights and protections as any other SMPD Officer as set out in Ch. 143 of the TX Local Government Code, the Meet and Confer agreement and Ch. 614 of the Texas Government Code. This section is merely in place to clarify that the investigation of conduct violations and the imposition of discipline falls to the Chief and not the District.
  9. The data/research that has been sent to me seems flawed, whereas the literature I've sent to Staff seems to suggest the opposite of the conclusions agreed to in this contract. How does Staff's review of the academic literature refute the assertions made in in the articles from the ACLU and others that I've sent? Our focus has been on the performance of our local program, the feedback received from the District and our first hand observation of our officers in the program rather than attributing issues that may be occurring at the national level to our program. However, Chief Standridge remains committed to examining the best practices that will eventually be communicated after Texas State University concludes its research with the District as part of the National Institute of Justice grant.
  10. The agreement should tie the number of SRO's to be fewer than Counselors provided on any given campus. Staff struggle to see how a direct correlation between the number of counselors and the number of SROs on a given campus is beneficial. However, the need for a particular number of officers at any given campus is a collaborative discussion between the District and the SMPD. Chief Standridge received the following campus Counselor count from April Chatmon-Mustafa, SMCISD Director of Social Emotional Learning & Guidance:

    High School: 5 School Counselors; 2 SEL Counselors

    Goodnight: 2 School Counselors; 1 SEL Counselor

    Miller: 2 School Counselors; 1 SEL Counselor

    Lamar: 1 SEL Counselor
11. Measuring use of Force against students, expected to be reported by their peers or from the students, but are students being educated about the limits of Policing powers and their rights? In the verbiage regarding respecting law and teaching students to obey the law and Officers do they ever mention "use this method to report bad cops"? Do they ever mention that some police may abuse their power and use their position within in the law to obfuscate their crimes? How one sided is the education that they are espousing to students? All high school students and peace officers are now required to complete a class in response to a 2017 law titled: Community Safety Education Act. Additionally, the official webpage of SMPD provides a complaint/commendation portal. It can be found at: https://www.sanmarcostx.gov/1521/A-Commendation-Or-Complaint. There is no proactive communication about the complaint process on campuses, but if the best practices identified by the NIJ research recommend it, Police Administration will adopt those recommendations.

I might come up with more things later but figured I would respond and get some of these on the books.

12. Also, what you sent regarding work sessions does not explicitly state that I can't invite my own consultant (speaker). Given what you've provided I actually think that it substantiates my request, especially with a second. However, given your stated position I will ask them to write their comments and I will use my allotted time to simply read them. Thank you for using this approach. Staff would prefer that you have the opportunity to express your concerns to your colleagues and ultimately vote against this item if you feel that to be the best course of action rather than engage in a debate with staff on the merits of the program. We would respectfully concede that staff’s feelings about the benefits of the program differ from yours.
 

Attachments

MBaker

Council Member
Can we also ask staff to pull ALL of the conversations we have had regarding this issue and attach all relevant memos/responses? While staff has provided several answers to questions I have posed over the years, that doesn't mean that I or others have been satisfied with those answers and this seems like the appropriate forum to have a complete record of the conversations, especially for the public. If this is too much work for staff, I guess I can go through my emails and try to post them here, but figured it wouldn't hurt to ask.
 

COSM_Admin

Administrator
Staff member
Response to CM Baker provided by Chief Standridge:
Abilene Police Administration became aware of one incident related to excessive use of force. We were aware of the incident before any complaint was received, so this matter resulted in a Class 1 investigation by Internal Affairs. They sustained misconduct, and I concurred with their findings. The officer was suspended and removed from the SRO program. He is no longer with APD.

Nearly two full years later, a lawsuit was filed regarding this matter. The plaintiff’s attorney sought others who believed their children had been wrongly handled, thus you read that there were additional alleged victims. The others never did file complaints, so the Department was unaware of them until they were named in the lawsuit.

Since the Department had already disciplined the officer and removed him from the program, the only result of the civil litigation was an ILA that is still in use today. Both the Department and Abilene ISD are parties of the ILA.

I have attached the article that was behind the pay-firewall.
 

Attachments

MBaker

Council Member
Given the scenario outlined, what steps were taken to help bring the un-reported accounts of abuse to light or create greater oversight of Officers involved in the SRO program, given that they also likely went through the requisite training? Essentially, once named in the lawsuit and found to be in the wrong, what repercussions did those officers face? If we discovered something similar in San Marcos, how would it be handled and what are the list of possible outcomes (IE. Internal investigations, Paid leave, moving them schools, removal from their position)?

When complaints are filed against an Officer, what steps are taken to corroborate the complaints? Do we reach out to parents and see if others also had an issue with that Officer? Do we report to parents why an Officer was removed from a school and yet placed in another? To what extent do Officers work in teams while on campuses to ensure that they can be reported by their peers for misconduct or excessive use of force?

Could we implement a program to ensure that students, faculty and staff know how to report bad cops and what that means? Part of my issue with the "teach them to respect the law" approach is that sometimes the law does not respect us!
 

COSM_Admin

Administrator
Staff member
Response to CM Baker, provided by Chief Standridge:
Given the scenario outlined, what steps were taken to help bring the un-reported accounts of abuse to light or create greater oversight of Officers involved in the SRO program, given that they also likely went through the requisite training? Essentially, once named in the lawsuit and found to be in the wrong, what repercussions did those officers face? If we discovered something similar in San Marcos, how would it be handled and what are the list of possible outcomes (IE. Internal investigations, Paid leave, moving them schools, removal from their position)?

I offer no additional comments on Abilene litigation/remedies. Respectfully, my Abilene days are in the rearview mirror, and I am very happy to be in San Marcos serving alongside this team.

When complaints are filed against an Officer, what steps are taken to corroborate the complaints? Do we reach out to parents and see if others also had an issue with that Officer? Do we report to parents why an Officer was removed from a school and yet placed in another? To what extent do Officers work in teams while on campuses to ensure that they can be reported by their peers for misconduct or excessive use of force?
If an issue of excessive force is discovered internally or through an external complaint, they are classified as Class 1 complaints and investigated by a trained Internal Affairs investigator. When I arrived, we had one. We certified two more, and I am sending another one this month.
If their investigation sustained misconduct, the officer is legally entitled to a Loudermill hearing to explain their side of the story, before a final disciplinary decision is made. A final decision is made in consultation with the Director of Public Safety and the Director of Civil Service. I must also be mindful of previous precedent, as it will surely be argued by CLEAT during any subsequent arbitration. I am a stern disciplinarian. Two officers have resigned in lieu of termination, and I have sought the termination of probationary employees on several occasions. If the sustained misconduct is serious and their first offense, suspension is likely the most appropriate remedy. I would also remove them from the SRO program. Officers cannot grieve assignment, as that remains the sole discretion of the police chief. The high school is the only campus with two officers. We do not have enough staffing to assign companion officers at the other three campuses.

Could we implement a program to ensure that students, faculty and staff know how to report bad cops and what that means? Part of my issue with the "teach them to respect the law" approach is that sometimes the law does not respect us!
As previously communicated, I want to learn what best practices are identified through the NIJ-funded grant that is being administered by Texas State University. I need to get this ILA approved because it is already expired. Next year, before this goes back to Council again, the study will be done and I will have more time to implement more best practices.
 
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