Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Texas' George Floyd Act introduced: Omnibus bill tackles qualified immunity, use of force, duty to intervene, and related topics

Rep. Senfronia Thompson
State Rep. Senfronia Thompson has filed Texas' version of the George Floyd Act. The bill number is HB 88. The legislation includes a new cause of action under state law for civil-rights violations, but eschewing the "qualified immunity" loophole created by federal judges in 1982.

The bill also creates statewide use-of-force and duty-to-intervene standards; requires departments to have a written, "progressive" disciplinary matrix; limits arrests for Class C misdemeanors; and requires corroboration for testimony by undercover drug cops. (Readers may recall that George Floyd was one of the hundreds of defendants who was convicted based solely on testimony from now defrocked Houston PD Det. Gerald Goines.)

See a press release featuring quotes from members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus about the bill, as well as prior Grits coverage and video of the August press conference where Chairwoman Thompson announced it with Mr. Floyd's family.

RELATED: Here's an excellent roundup of police accountability votes from around the country from the recent election. Grits hadn't realized Kyle, TX had an item on the ballot to allow police oversight in that town.


Phelps said...

In an up or down vote, I would vote for this bill. I’m concerned about the part requiring discontinuing force without a provision that prevents a “green light - red light” situation where suspects can attempt to escape, comply, wait for the force to end, and then try again over and over. I think that provision is ambiguous enough to create that argument in court.

Overall, I think it is a good bill, particularly the indemnity requirements. That departments can get out of paying the settlement by charging bad cops is certainly an incentive we (the People) need.

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Steven Michael Seys said...

Steve Phelps is right. The bill has few flaws and fixes the majority of what is wrong with police interactions. It would be a good example to show the Northern and West Coast states that have espoused various forms of "abolish the police" rhetoric

James S. said...

Not charged, convicted. I don't like anything that gives D.A. offices a financial incentive to seek convictions. It seems that this indemnification section is a sop to get more support for the bill and/or a way to make sure plaintiffs don't end up with judgment proof defendants. Either way, as a taxpayer, I'm not thrilled with having to indemnify guys who violate civil rights. Why not let the unions continue to do it?

James S.

Phelps said...

I think that the argument behind the indemnity is that this is taking the place of qualified immunity. The fact is, there are a non-zero number of fabricated rights-violation cases. I'm not saying that all or even most are, but it is just as bad to force a cop to go through a "the process is the punishment" case as it is for the cops to arrest someone without cause for a "the process is the punishment" night in jail.

Cops are still Americans and still have rights. I want them to have the SAME rights as everyone else, not more (like they do now) and not less (like they would without some kind of indemnity.)

Gary said...

Phelps could you explain what "process" the police officer goes through that is just as bad as being falsly accused, spending a night in jail, posting bail, and hiring a lawyer to defend against false charges?

James S. said...

I'm certainly no cop-hater on this board, but I really wonder if there are significantly more frivolous rights-violation cases than there are frivolous personal injury, medical malpractice, or legal malpractice cases. And, if so, it seems the solution would be a loser-pays system -- which no one in the legislature has the guts to put in, even on a limited basis.

Unless I read it wrong, this statute indemnifies both police who win and police who lose. Why not have a system that indemnifies the legal expenses of the winning policemen?

Phelps said...

Being falsely accused, losing his job, being pilloried in the media, threatened by people all over the world, and having his livelihood for the rest of his life hang in the balance of a jury verdict.

I’ve been to jail for the night, posted bail and hired a lawyer. I’ll take it over a lawsuit. Have you spent a night in jail, Gary?

Gary said...

Well that might happen 1 out of 1000, but for most it's take a few weeks paid time off, name is never released, and certainly no trial. Police release a statement saying they investigated and the officer did nothing wrong.

On the other hand my senerio happens most of the time when a cop falsely arrests a person.

Phelps said...

Have you ever had cuffs on you, Gary, or are you another limousine liberal lecturing the untermensch like me on what my best interests are?

gary said...

I'm not sure what being cuffed/arrested has to do with thinking you're socially inferior, nor do I understand what your statement "my best interests are?" has to do with the discussion over what process the police go through when they are accused of something.

I guess you're one of the 1 in 1000 that got accused and had to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

1 in 100 actually