- Revise the reporting forms so that law enforcement has clear guidance on how to report incidents in which multiple officers have fired shots.
- Publish when the reports are received and posted so that compliance with the law’s time requirements can be monitored.
- Require law enforcement to clarify what is considered a deadly weapon in an officer-involved shooting.
- Report to the Legislature if law enforcement agencies have submitted reports late.
- Create a public source that aggregates the information reported.
To begin, HB 1036 needs some teeth. There is no agency tasked with enforcing the law, and even if one were, there is no punishment for noncompliance. In contrast, the Texas law that requires that a death in custody is reported provides a criminal penalty for failure to comply.Excellent work, Amanda. On behalf of everybody who cares about police shootings but didn't have time, knowledge or expertise to participate in rule making, thank you.
Further, legislators should expand the information being collected and reported. This month, the FBI announced that it would start collecting information on any incident in which a police officer causes serious injury or death to a civilian. Though the original version of Texas’ new law included mandatory reporting of any serious injury or death, the enacted version was stripped to limit reporting only to officer-involved shootings. All violent encounters should be reported so that the public and policymakers can understand the extent of police violence and develop evidence-based solutions to prevent it.
Legislators should also require that law enforcement report the badge numbers of officers involved in these incidents. Law enforcement’s response to recent deaths by police violence – in particular, the deaths of unarmed black men and children – has largely been blamed on “a few bad apples.” If true, those bad apples should be identified and held accountable.
Finally, Texas should make the information reported available in an online database. The reports are currently posted as PDFs on the attorney general’s website. I have been gathering them into an Excel spreadsheet, which I post online. This solution is only a Band-Aid and does not create the kind of accessibility and transparency that would come from having the database available through a governmental agency.
The AG should adopt the Woog amendments and Texas legislators should begin planning to improve the statute when they come back to town a year from now.
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