protesters at city council meeting

Members of the San Marcos community stand outside the city hall discussion room with posters advocating for the practice of cite and release to be enforced for local law enforcement, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, at San Marcos City Hall. [Photo by Rebecca Harrell]

During the Sept. 17 city council meeting, San Marcos residents representing MOVE Texas—a nonpartisan, nonprofit, grassroots organization working to build power in underrepresented youth communities—packed city hall chambers to express the organization’s favor to cite and release programs. Residents not affiliated with MOVE Texas were in attendance as well.

Cite and release laws have recently been used in neighboring counties to combat what can be described as unnecessary laws that overwhelm the state’s court system. Cite and release most commonly refers to individuals receiving citations for possessing small amounts of marijuana rather than going to jail.

Emma Mayers, member of MOVE, said she went to the city council meeting to express support for cite and release laws to try and have an impact on the community.

“San Marcos is a young college town, and the implementation of cite and release will directly impact those young people who live in this community and can’t afford to post bail,” Mayers said.

Additionally, Mayers said she thinks the new police chief seems open to cite and release laws but it is mainly up to city officials to create any such laws.

“(The Police Chief) seems very open to cite and release and would do what the community asked, but I think the real source of cite and release is going to come from city council members,” Mayers said.

Samantha Benavides, member of MOVE Texas, said she was unsure if the new police chief will actually work with city council toward creating cite and release policies.

“When council member Jocabed asked him if he supported cite and release, he didn’t give a definite answer, so we will just have to wait and see,” Benavides said.

Representatives for Mano Amiga, a non-profit organization working to provide educational resources for the immigrant community in San Marcos, were present to express favor for cite and release programs.

Jordan Buckley, member of Mano Amiga, said Hays County should adopt cite and release policies similar to Austin and surrounding counties and cities.

“It’s outrageous that in 2018, police arrested people 88% of the time for low-level marijuana possessions and when you go north across the county line, they hardly prosecute marijuana possession,” Buckley said. “Mano Amiga fervently believes in criminal justice reform and our county and city officials can take action to rectify many abuses that have transpired for far too long.”

City council appointed Bob Klett as interim police chief for the San Marcos Police Department during the regular council meeting. Klett was previously the assistant police chief in San Marcos and will now take the position of interim police chief.

During the meeting, Klett said he would work with officials in talks regarding cite and release policies.

“We’ve had cite and release in the state of Texas since 2007, but it’s never really come up as a concern until recently and once these concerns came up we had to adjust to our community,” Klett said.

The appointment of Klett may have been the factor for residents and other organizations expressing a need for cite and release laws in Hays County.

Council will agendize cite and release policies Sept. 30 during their regular council meeting which will potentially be voted into law.

San Marcos City Council meetings take place every first and third Tuesday on the month at 6 p.m. in San Marcos City Hall.

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