Thursday, May 11, 2017

The police accountability bill that might still become law

A short-term defeat: Wednesday's record vote
As the Austin American-Statesman and others have noted, the slew of police accountability bills originally thought to have a chance have largely stalled in the sausage-making that is the Texas legislative process.

The House is on track to eek out one bill, though, which seeks to enforce a law already on the books. Thursday morning - 14 hours after HB 245 lost by one vote - lawmakers preliminarily passed the bill, which now faces a "third reading" vote on Friday.

The proposal would give notice to law enforcement agencies that fail to file the one-page reports with Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office within 30 days of a shooting, and fine them $1,000 per day if the reports aren’t filed within seven days of getting notice. The bill’s author, Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, said he believes he has the votes to pass it.

“I’m proud that my House colleagues have once again shown their commitment to this important issue,” Johnson said.

Late Wednesday, the legislation was voted down by a lethargic, chaotic body on the heels of a lengthy and tedious discussion about trucking regulations. Johnson said when it came time for his bill, lawmakers “didn’t know what the bill did or that it was agreed upon, and it just got caught up in the wash.”

Some may still oppose the bill because it fines departments – penalties owed to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund increase to $10,000 the day after receiving notice a second time in five years and $1,000 each day following. But Johnson was hopeful, since law enforcement and those who scrutinize law enforcement’s behavior are in favor of the legislation.

Texas Municipal Police Association Executive Director Kevin Lawrence said they were “absolutely supportive. Everybody should be required to play by the rules.”

The required reports collect demographic information about the people involved in the shooting; factual information like the address, date and time, severity of the shooting, and whether the person was armed; and a description of the original call.

An analysis of the reports has shown that in the 20 months from Sept. 2015 to May 2017, 302 individuals were shot – 141 fatally and 161 causing injuries – by Texas law enforcement. Fifty-three people who were shot were unarmed. Meanwhile, 50 law enforcement officers were shot while on-duty, 10 fatally and 40 causing injuries, based on the reports.

But the database is incomplete, as the series, Point of Impact, revealed earlier this year, and violators currently do not face punishments. 

In February, I reported that 12 fatal shootings of both officers and civilians were improperly reported. The Attorney General’s office confirmed that all 12 reports should have been filed, and they were within weeks, albeit too late to be included in the annual reports released in 2016 and 2017.

In committee, one person – San Antonio police Sgt. James Johnson – signed up in opposition but did not speak. Nor did he comment for a story.

Kevin Buckler, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Houston, was one of two people who testified in support of the bill at the March 14 hearing. Noting that the 2015 requirement was applauded for its push for transparency in police shootings, he called Johnson’s bill “simply the next step in progression to transparency reform.”

RELATED: From the Texas Tribune.

UPDATE: This bill passed on to the senate with a third-reading record vote of 112-21. See here for the vote tally.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

How about some accountability for the lying "Innocence Project." See: Media missed the real story of the late Hurricane Carter (Mulshine).

Anonymous said...

That's an article written by some newspaper columnist that neither debunks that Carter was innocent or presents anything new. Most of the Innocence Project's cases are concrete exonerations with DNA proving innocence or witnesses recanting their testimony (usually saying they were forced to lie by prosecutors or police officers).

Almost on a weekly basis we see a new exoneration of an innocent person: https://www.innocenceproject.org/indiana-man-exonerated-after-serving-more-than-25-years-for-a-rape-dna-testing-proves-he-didnt-commit/.

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