Police reform bills were introduced across the country after the shocking death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. Texas was no exception. At the end of last month, the Texas House approved three reform measures that form part of a larger raft of legislation relating to police conduct.
A jury convicted Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, of the murder of Floyd last month. He is awaiting sentencing.
The Texas House approved three police reform measures soon after the verdict. The bills would require law enforcement agencies in Texas to beef up their disciplinary actions against police following killings in custody, prevent officers from arresting people for fine-only traffic offenses, and require more evidence to support undercover officer testimony, the Texas Tribune reported.
The George Floyd Act authored by Rep. Senfronia Thompson now heads to the more conservative Senate where it faces an uphill battle. Police unions are opposing parts of the bill including the prospect of lawsuits when officers stand accused of violating a suspect’s state constitutional rights. Measures requiring law enforcement agencies to adopt use-of-force policies that emphasize de-escalation have also stalled in committee. The legislation would in part ban chokeholds and require police officers to intervene if their partner is using excessive force.
The Senate passed two bills in reaction to the Floyd tragedy last month. SB 68 stated it is every law enforcement officer’s duty to stop or prevent another officer from using unreasonable force that violates state law where it is not required to apprehend a suspect, or puts a suspect at risk of injury unless the action is “immediately necessary” to protect the police officer or another person.
SB 68 also requires police officers who witness excessive force by another officer to promptly report it to their supervisor.
Under a related Senate bill passed last month, a peace officer who encounters an injured person must seek immediate medical help and provide first aid assistance — to the extent permitted by “skill and training” — while waiting for paramedics to arrive. The upper house has passed a bill to restrict police chokeholds.
The Texas House has also approved a leftover part of the 2017 Sandra Bland Act that limits police officers’ ability to arrest people for minor traffic violations that at most would result in a fine.
Bland, a Black woman, apparently took her life in jail after a traffic violation arrest escalated into a stand-off with a state trooper. While police maintain arrests are rare for these violations, the Tribune cited figures showing Texas police arrested 45,000 people for traffic violations last year.
If you have been arrested by police in Texas, it’s vital to contact an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Call our team at (214) 720-9552.