Texas House green lights police reform bills in George Floyd’s honor

The Texas House has passed a number of police reforms. Separately, the Senate has also passed...
The Texas House has passed a number of police reforms. Separately, the Senate has also passed its own set of bills.(Source: WMBF News)
Published: May. 3, 2021 at 9:36 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - The Texas House on Friday quickly signed off on three far-ranging bills that were originally a part of the Texas George Floyd Act.

House Bill 830 would ban officers from arresting people for traffic offenses that are only punishable by fines.

“It avoids one police-civilian interaction that can be sort of a gateway for interactions gone badly,” said Jennifer Laurin, a professor who studies criminal justice issues at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law.

Scott Henson, the policy director of the advocacy group Just Liberty, told KWTX that there are around 50,000 such arrests in Texas each year.

“The maximum penalty is only a fine if a jury or a judge finds you guilty, and so the idea is that the jail is punishing you more than the actual sentence,” he said.

Another bill, House Bill 834, would require testimony from undercover police officers in drug cases to be crosschecked with other sources.

Henson said that criminal justice advocates have been pushing for this measure for about two decades.

“The George Floyd case raised this issue again because he was one of many dozen defendants about whom a police officer named Gerald Goines in Houston fabricated informants in order to accuse George Floyd of drug possession,” Henson said.

The final bill that the House gave its approval to on Friday is House Bill 829.

It would require certain jurisdictions to adhere to a set of uniform penalties for officer misconduct cases that go to arbitration.

“This bill is about doing away with due process for the very small percentage of departments in Texas that have some sort of meaningful review for their law enforcement officers,” Kevin Lawrence, the executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association, told KWTX.

Meanwhile, he said all three bills passed by the House are “knee jerk reactions.”

The Senate has passed its own set of bills derived from the original George Floyd Act.

Senate Bill 69 would ban police chokeholds and neck restraints unless they were “necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to or the death of the officer or another person,” and Senate Bill 68 would require officers to intervene in certain cases in which they witness so-called excessive force.

With about four weeks left in the legislative session, it remains unclear which bills will advance.

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