Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Unions fighting police reforms up at #txlege on Thursday

Three bills scheduled for votes on Thursday on the floor of the Texas House are all stand-alone parts of the Texas George Floyd Act: HBs 829, HB 830, and HB 834, and all by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson.

HB 829 requires civil-service cities to create a disciplinary matrix to keep arbitrators from overturning punishment so often.

HB 830 forbids arrests for Class C violations of the Transportation Code.

HB 834 requires corroboration for police officer testimony to secure a drug conviction.

For the most part, we've heard all the union's arguments before. (See links for HBs 830 and 834 for more background on those bills.) But the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas put out a flyer critical of HB 829 which deserves special attention, as it's focused on a less-high-profile topic than the other two. Here's what CLEAT's distributing against the bill: 

Let's respond to the issues raised one by one.

1. CLEAT argues that Texas’ police civil service statute has not been changed since 2005 and decisions about departmental discipline have been left to local union negotiations, which they prefer.

It’s true the Legislature has not revisited the police civil-service statute for many years. Since that time, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to observe how those 2005 revisions played out in the real world. In Fort Worth, about half of fired officers get back on the force. In San Antonio, 70% of fired officers are reinstated. Notoriously, one San Antonio officer was reinstated after being fired for feeding feces between two pieces of bread to a homeless person. Police chiefs need authority to fire officers under such circumstances. HB 829 is a moderate effort to resolve this problem, giving officers, departments, and the public greater certainty about which punishments are reasonable. While the police chiefs association has suggested getting rid of arbitration altogether, Chairwoman Thompson’s bill keeps arbitration and simply provides arbitrators more guidance.

2. CLEAT argues that HB 829 would “severely limit the discretion of cities to negotiate these issues with their officers back home.”

This is disingenuous. The main thing that currently limits cities’ discretion to strengthen disciplinary processes is that, if the only way to do it is through local meet and confer agreements, the unions will never agree. If unions won’t sign off on a police contract, its provisions cannot take effect. It’s inappropriate to limit police discipline through union negotiations. That should be left to local policy and state law. Certainly no government employee union should have veto power over accountability reforms affecting their profession.

3. CLEAT claims the law would offend “the vote of the people who adopted civil service in the first place.”

This argument lacks context. Texas cities mostly adopted civil service in the 1940s and 1950s. The provisions they’re saying the law would change were not in place when voters adopted Chapter 143 of the Local Government Code, but were added many decades afterward at the unions’ behest. If it was okay to change the rules post hoc in 2005, Chairwoman Thompson should be able to do it now.


The other two bills up Thursday have received more attention and will likely draw more natural support on the House floor. HB 829, though, is a more deep-in-the-weeds technical issue which has flown relatively under the radar. Here's hoping all three of them move onto the senate without any hiccups.


Gadfly said...

A president with gonads would simply cut off, statewide, COPS grants and sale of federal hardware to states that don't get on the stick.

JImmy Powers said...

Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. I can see response times to violent crimes slowing to a crawl.

JImmy Powers said...

Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. I can see response times to violent crimes slowing to a crawl.

JImmy Powers said...

Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. I can see response times to violent crimes slowing to a crawl.

Anonymous said...

That's one way to find out if our departments were staffed with cowards or not.

Anonymous said...

Grits - Is CLEAT one union or plural as you write, “Unions fight police reforms...”?