Above, San Marcos Chief of Police Stan Standridge discussed his goals and plans as he begins his new position. Photo courtesy of the City of San Marcos
Standridge hopes to bring trust, transparency
Chief Stan Standridge’s first day on the job fell just short of a red carpet welcome, he said in an interview with the Daily Record, awestruck over the kindness and inclusiveness of his family’s welcome to the City of San Marcos.
With just five days under his belt, the former Abilene Police Chief and current President of the Texas Police Chiefs Association already has big plans for building trust and legitimacy in San Marcos.
“This city still enjoys a very high appreciation for all first responders,” Standridge said. “As it relates to being procedurally just, I think we have to do four tenets: We have to treat people with dignity, courtesy and respect. We have to give individuals a voice. That is really important. Dr. Martin Luther King said ‘the riot is the voice of the unheard’ ... If we want more civil communities, we have to give our citizens a voice … The third thing is we need to be neutral and transparent in our decision making and the fourth thing is we need to convey trustworthy motives.”
Acute and Chronic Trauma
Standridge first addressed the impact of acute and chronic trauma on decision making for officers both on and off duty, referencing the department’s recent loss of Officer Justin Putnam to criminal homicide in April.
“There hasn’t been a funeral or even a memorial service for Officer Putnam. You have a lot of unaddressed trauma in this department and it’s beginning to manifest,” said Standridge, who is planning a staff retreat to create some space for the officers and allow them to, “stop the grind long enough to really focus on vision: Where are going? Are we doing the right things?”
He plans to introduce a family orientation alongside the new employee orientation and distribute a book “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement,” by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin, to help prepare officers and their families for emotional wellness and resiliency. Standridge not only wants to prepare officers but wants them to know they are encouraged to seek supportive services without any concern for loss of employment.
San Marcos Police Officers Association
Standridge followed along with the city’s process of passing and implementing its Cite and Release ordinance from afar even before he was hired.
Now, after speaking with SMPOA leadership, Standridge will be assuming the role of communications moving forward to accomplish the agreed upon need to return some civility to the discourse while they tackle tough issues.
“I know that there is a lot of discourse on Cite and Release and there’s been some testy exchanges between a lot of the involved parties,” he said. “I think the role of the police chief is to present factually what the department is doing. I’ve asked the police association to allow me the opportunity to step into those conversations and they have readily agreed that’s what they want … I want to have some civil discourse.”
Standridge spoke to the direct and beneficial role of a police officer association including many activities that SMPOA facilitates in San Marcos. “Historically police associations exist as benevolent associations. They take care of employees and citizens, and they do remarkable things across this nation, such as, back-to-school drives ... Blue Santa, I envision them having a very active role in Blue Santa. I know that we do a lot of community events in the City of San Marcos.”
However, Standridge was also welcomed on his first day by local activist groups, Mano Amiga and Texas Rising, who offered up concern that with the implementation of Cite and Release, street diversions had decreased and citations increased, just as SMPOA President Jesse Savaadra said would happen.
“The notion of incarceration working as a model of criminal justice is fantasy,” Standridge said in response. “Everybody recognizes that incarceration doesn’t work, especially for nonviolent offenses. Police officers know that.” He asked for time to work out the logistics of street diversions within the Cite and Release ordinance.
“Let’s restore some civil discourse,” he said. “Give me a chance to become acclimated and knowledgeable and I give you my word that I will absolutely engage our concerned citizens on all of these issues. I believe, as long as the law allows, I will be transparent … Let us concede that there hasn’t been a lot of civility. My call to action for all of us is, 'We need to be better citizens if San Marcos is going to be a better city.'”
Community Engagement and Chief's Advisory Panel
“I think it can be done even better, with more inclusion and transparency,” Standridge said of the department’s community engagement.
He referenced the community engagement program he worked with in Abilene, called Threshold, which involved 23 different residents, and worked on increasing transparency, knowledge, and organizational knowledge in the community.
Standridge hopes to utilize the Chief’s Advisory Panel for more than Cite and Release, especially in building trust in the community.
“We need to look holistically at what the police do and don't do, and we need to work toward building trust and legitimacy in the community,” Standridge said. “I look forward to retooling some of that.”
Beyond the advisory panel, Standridge wants to engage with social media and real conversations at the next level at schools, churches and community centers. He explains the origin of his precious community engagement program, “Threshold is the bottom of an open door into a new room. The concept is we go out, we leave the office and we go into the community.”
Internal work and focal points
Standridge intends to hire to fill the 20 functional vacancies in the department with intentionality and diversity in mind.
“SMPD employees want to be here,” he said. “I found them to be very thankful for their positions. They want to be here, they want to make a difference, and they want to serve.”
SMPD officers are excited for the months and years of strategic reform to come, Standridge said, and that includes work to be done on internal accountability processes. He plans to discuss that more at the command staff retreat, including moving toward an event review board which would review all crashes, use of force, pursuits in force and injury incidents, for better documentation and accountability.
“I firmly believe in accountability,” Standridge said. “The city manager hired me with the belief that I would bring a level of transparency and accountability to the department.”
Standridge also hopes to replace their Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD system), which he said will likely be costly but incredibly necessary as the core of public safety and records management.
Historical Policing and Reform in his 26th year
Standridge was deeply impressed by how SMPD cares for its community, and the support from the community in return, but recognized there is work to be done to break down lack of civility and work toward building trust.
“We are guardians of democracy and so we need to definitely embrace that,” Standridge said. “We need to recognize, we are not responsible for historical police abuse, but we are responsible to it … We need to recognize the role of policing in historical America and it hasn’t always been good. In fact, to be honest with you, it has injured many of our citizens throughout history. And it’s still occurring. When those things happen we’ve got to be accountable as a profession. We need to acknowledge the role of policing in the past and present in justice and discrimination.”
Going into his 26th year in law enforcement Standridge asks San Marcos residents that as he deals with the many internal and administrative “fires,” “Give me enough time with some of the leaders in the this department and even outside the department to stop the grind long enough and work on strategic reform … For us to be successful as the City of San Marcos, it has to be predicated in mutual respect and trust. That is going to take time.”