- Bob Sechler American-Statesman Staff
Law enforcement leaders from across Texas — including Austin interim Police Chief Brian Manley — gathered at the state Capitol on Tuesday to warn that so-called “bathroom bills” under debate in the Legislature will sap police resources if any of them become law and could lead to an increase in crime.
The proposals to require transgender people to use public bathrooms that match the gender listed on their birth certificates won’t solve any existing crime problem or bring any criminal-justice benefits to Texas, the law enforcement officials said.
“Instead, it could in fact jeopardize the safety of many in our community,” Manley said, joined with top police officials from Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, El Paso and other cities.
Victims advocates and some elected officials, including Austin Mayor Steve Adler, also attended the event on the south steps of the Capitol to voice opposition to the proposed bathroom restrictions.
Inside, the state Senate spent much of Tuesday debating Senate Bill 3, one of the proposed bathroom bills.
“This bill will make the job of law enforcement more difficult,” Manley said. “When we’re combating challenges across the community, pulling police officers’ time from combating violent crime into enforcing a bathroom bill, it makes the community less safe.”
He and others said laws already are on the books to address assaults that take place in public bathrooms.
Texas business and tourism leaders held a similar event at the Capitol last week to voice opposition to the proposed bathroom legislation, calling it unnecessary and discriminatory. Passing the measures will hamper the ability of businesses to attract talented workers, they said, and could lead to cancellation of high-profile conferences, meetings and sporting events.
A number of major employers with Texas ties — including Round Rock-based Dell Technologies, IBM, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, AT&T, BNSF Railway, Texas Instruments, Kimberly-Clark and Tenet Healthcare — have come out against the proposed bathroom legislation.
Advocates for a bathroom bill - including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, both Republicans - say the legislation is needed to protect women and girls from men who could prey upon them in women’s bathrooms.
A spokesperson for Abbott did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Patrick spokesman Alejandro Garcia noted that Houston voters repealed an anti-discrimination ordinance in 2015 — which is similar to the type of ordinance SB 3 would prohibit cities from enacting — and said “no increase in policing costs as a result of that (repeal) vote have been reported.”
In addition to prohibiting certain anti-discrimination ordinances, however, SB 3 also would mandate that public restrooms be “designated for and used only by persons of the same sex as stated on a person’s birth certificate.”
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who formerly served as Austin’s chief, said Tuesday that in his career in law enforcement, he hasn’t encountered the problem of men dressing up as women to commit assault in women’s public restrooms.
“We have yet to find anything that this will prevent,” Acevedo said.
Adler delivered opening remarks at Tuesday’s event, calling the bill “a horrible solution to a non-existent problem,” as well as a potential “self-inflicted wound of mammoth proportions.”
“It’s unnecessary. It poses economic risk for Austin and the state of Texas. It does nothing to protect women, public safety, and in fact, this bill would make us less safe,” Adler said. “The bathroom bill is discriminatory — plain and simple.”