Letter to the Editor
Following the murder of George Floyd, our mayor Jane Hughson took to the Daily Record to claim law enforcement officers in San Marcos "are part of a system of accountability and transparency to ensure that bad actors are never allowed to fly under the radar." However, an email uncovered through an Open Records request this week suggests Hughson herself has opted to deactivate that radar system.
As a Parks and Recreation Board member, I was horrified when two individuals –– both of whom are people of color much older than me, each recently appointed by city council to a board or commission –– informed me about what they deemed a racist act by a park ranger. They were unaware the other had reached out to me and referred to separate events.
I was curious to see if this officer, Loy Locke, had been the recipient of any complaints of racially biased conduct this summer. Indeed, of the 4 complaints yielded from Open Records requests, three of them concerned Locke. As I told city council Tuesday, I first mistakenly thought they all applied to Locke, as one of the four complaints left the officer unnamed. (Initially, I planned to only request complaints specific to Locke and forgot I had opted to expand the request to any park ranger.)
In the September meeting, where our Parks Board contemplated an aluminum can ban, I shared my concern with uneven enforcement of any new criminalization based on the various complaints.
I read from a May 11th report in which Travis County Commissioner Margaret Gomez denounces her grandson's treatment in an interaction with Locke: "It appears so much more training is needed in sensitivity toward people of color and certainly training in deescalation... His two Anglo friends were not questioned but they saw the whole thing." A June 13th report reads: "We had the worst experience with L. Locke; he escalated a minor situation...We drove from Houston to celebrate a birthday party & to get together as a Hispanic culture... I felt so upset & hopeless as a minority. Soon after not getting anywhere they spot a Caucasian couple & address the beer bottles, which is also against park rules, never gives them a ticket."
One I didn't read was from a New Braunfels resident, who on Aug 9 reported: "I've been a strong advocate for Blue Lives my whole life & the way they treated me made me never want to support another cop again. I won't let Mr. Locke define my view of the Blue. He is why the Blue is frowned upon."
I was stunned to later review the video from the meeting as posted on the city website; it had been censored to remove Locke's name each time it was read in the context of complaints against him. Another Open Records request revealed how it came to be: in an email Oct 27, from the assistant city manager to Locke, she writes "[City Manager] Mr. Lumbreras and Mayor Hughson met last Thursday morning and they agreed to remove your name from the video."
Tomorrow, I face an Ethics Trial for mistakenly attributing one of those four complaints to Locke, when only three pertained to him. If Mayor Hughson and City Manager Lumbreras wanted to ensure the accuracy of the meeting, they could have muted Locke's name on the occasion I misspoke. But, if they wanted to conceal the identity of an officer repeatedly accused of being a "bad actor," to borrow the Mayor's words, and thereby violating the spirit of the Open Meetings Act, then, mission accomplished.