Wednesday, April 21, 2021

With chances for TCOLE Sunset legislation withering, bill heard to expand agency's authority to kick bad cops out of the profession

Your correspondent is beginning to despair that the 87th Texas Legislature may come and go without meaningful reform a the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, the state's police-and-jailer-licensing agency.

The TCOLE Sunset bill - which drew attention because of an especially harsh critique by Sunset staff calling it a broken system that's failing to achieve its mission - is now languishing with others in House Calendars and appears likely to be pushed off for two years. Instead the Calendars Committee sent forward HB 1600, which has already passed the House and will be heard this afternoon in the Senate Administration Committee. That bill pushes off the Sunset process for TCOLE, the Commission on Jail Standards, and numerous other agencies.

Legislation in the Senate to expand TCOLE's powers has yet to get a hearing, but this afternoon, better late than never, the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee will hear HB 3654 by Rodriguez which would beef up the agency's authority to de-certify peace-officer licenses for misconduct.

Regular readers know that, currently, TCOLE can only de-certify an officer’s license if he or she a) is convicted of a felony or certain, specified misdemeanors, or b) has been dishonorably discharged by not one but two different agencies. HB 3654 broadens the circumstances under which TCOLE can suspend licenses, directing the agency to develop rules governing when officers’ licenses may be revoked when the officer’s continued licensing would constitute a “threat to the public welfare.”

Under the bill, the agency would develop rules articulating when officers’ licenses may be revoked on the following grounds:
1) lack of competence

2) illegal drug use or addiction

3) lack of truthfulness in court proceedings, offense reports (unless recanted within 10 days), or employment applications,

4) making a false entry into court records,

5) evidence tampering

6) cheating on promotions exams

7) insubordination

8) discriminatory conduct

9) pattern of excessive force

10) pattern of abuse of official capacity

11) pattern of sexual harassment/misconduct

12) pattern of inappropriate relationships with persons in custody

13) pattern of misuse of information obtained as a result of employment as a peace officer
That'd be a massive and much-needed expansion of TCOLE's authority and would require a significant expansion of staff to fulfill those duties. It's also a list laden with negotiation-fodder; the bill could be scaled back considerably and still be quite a significant improvement.

The bill attempts to mitigate that to some extent by increasing the fee peace officers and jailers pay when their licenses are commissioned. But regular readers know these are among the only licensees in the state who do not pay regular licensing fees to cover the administrative bureaucracy of the agency that regulates them, the way, doctors, lawyers, hairdressers, or plumbers do. Make me Philosopher King and I'd make police officers and jailers pay annual or periodic fees to cover the costs of their licensing regulation. That's how it works for every other class of licensed workers and doing so would eliminate the "fiscal note."

This bill is starting pretty late in the process to make it all the way through in 2021, but it's an opening salvo in a discussion about how TCOLE's authority needs to be expanded. And some of these ideas could see their way into amendments tacked onto other legislation. KXAN-TV has lately been covering related topics, see here and here.


Gadfly said...

What the fück good is the Sunset Commish anyway if the Lege can ignore it with impunity?

Somebody should introduce a bill that, if the Sunset Commish proposes major changes to a state agency and the next Lege doesn't act, said agency goes into hiatus for two years.

Would be GREAT here.

No TCOLE means no cop licensing!

Unknown said...

Hell yeah!