The Dallas Police Department’s chief has declared his support for the recent work by a bipartisan collection of Texas legislators to make tampering, damaging, or disconnecting ankle monitors a crime.
Having already passed in the Texas Senate, the bill is now working through the Texas House of Representatives.
The legislation comes in response to last year’s hospital shooting that left two healthcare workers at Dallas Methodist Hospital dead. The alleged murderer was on parole and had disconnected his ankle monitor before the incident.
State Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) filed HB 3549 on March 6. The bill elevates removal or tampering of an ankle monitor from a technical violation of parole to a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years of incarceration. The bill also requires that offenders serve the rest of their original sentence.
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia has been a vocal proponent of the bill, speaking out at a press conference with Rep. Anchia on March 6 and in a tweet:
“This legislation, would not only make it a felony to remove one’s ankle monitor, but mandate the offender serve the rest of their original sentence. The time is now to ensure violent suspects do not continue to get more chances then [sic] our victims.”
On March 21 Garcia testified before the House Committee on Corrections that Dallas police have arrested nearly 50 people in the last three years who were issued ankle monitors.
“Violent criminals have no respect for ankle monitors. It is time to place real consequences on individuals who remove their electronic monitoring privileges,” Garcia told the committee, per The Dallas Morning News.
As the bill is currently pending in committee, Rep. Anchia tweeted on March 21:
“Breaking your ankle monitor is like breaking out of jail. The violent offender who killed 2 healthcare workers at [Dallas Methodist] cut off his ankle monitor months prior to the shooting & received no repercussions. HB 3549 could’ve prevented this tragedy.”
Anchia also thanked Chief Garcia for testifying in favor of the bill before the House Committee on Corrections.
The Dallas Police Department is currently dealing with more ankle monitors than ever before. A study by the department highlighted the impact of District Attorney John Creuzot’s bail reform, finding that 56% of suspects accused of violent crimes or weapons violations in Dallas had been released on bail or on their own recognizance.
Still, while the bill has wide bipartisan support in the Texas Legislature, some criminal justice experts have argued that the bill will not deter criminals.
Jennifer Toon, a community advisor for Texas After Violence, explained her doubts to Fox 4 KDFW: “The real problem with GPS ankle monitors, whether used for pre-trial probation or parole, all seem to center on the supervising officers and the equipment.”