Texas has its own George Floyd Act in the state legislature, which is different from the federal law but is comprised of more than half a dozen bills that could bring about change, should these bills make it out of committee and to law.
Calls for reform are coming from Texas residents including U.S. 5th Circuit Judge Don Willett. The SE Texas Record describes Willett as “a staunch conservative,” who is frustrated with the “entrenched, judge-made [qualified immunity] doctrine” that he calls seemingly “Kevlar-coated” against reform, and smacking of “qualified impunity.”
A University of Houston report compiled this year shows Texans across the political spectrum support criminal justice reform, such as ending arrests for non-jailable offenses (74% support), providing a duty to intervene when police witness excessive force (91% support), and adding more police training on the use of force (91% support).
Senate Bill 2212 would create a statewide requirement for police officers to request and render aid to an individual who is possibly injured, especially those suspected of crimes. Currently there is no statewide requirement to request and render aid. The analysis of the bill says that if someone needs aid and it wouldn’t put the police officer in danger, all officers should render aid for injured persons they encounter while discharging their official duties, an analysis of the bill explains.
Use of force has been a hot topic for years, and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis raised the volume on that discussion. Senate Bill 68 is the legislature’s attempt to curb that force. It would require police officers to stop or prevent other officers from using excessive force.
Officers may not intervene when they see colleagues using excessive force for several reasons, including “fear of retaliation by peers and the potential detriment to their own career,” the analysis of Senate Bill 68 says. “Advocates for policies requiring officers to intervene against the use of excessive force by fellow officers argue that these policies will benefit law enforcement organizations by enhancing overall professionalism and relationships with those they serve in their community.”
Punishment for officers who use excessive force is often inconsistent because there’s no standard punishment statewide, but legislators might take up the task of creating a disciplinary matrix with House Bill 829.
Often, when there is a punishment and an appeal, “the chief’s discipline for misconduct is often overturned on appeal, not because the facts were wrong, or because the policy wasn’t violated, but because the chief treated another officer in similar circumstances differently,” says a brief from Just Liberty, on House Bill 829.
Other bills focus on corroboration of witness testimony (House Bill 834) and a bill that would limit police authority to arrest individuals for Class C misdemeanors that are only punishable by a fine (House Bill 830).