Hours after a bill lost in the Texas House by one vote, lawmakers gave it a second chance and preliminarily passed legislation that would enforce the state’s unique requirement for officer-involved shooting reports.
On a voice vote, House Bill 245 was passed Thursday morning and faces a final vote Friday. The legislation would give notice to law enforcement agencies that fail to file the one-page reports with Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office within 30 days of a shooting, and fine them $1,000 per day if the reports aren’t filed within seven days of getting notice. The bill’s author, Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, said he believes he has the votes to pass it.
“I’m proud that my House colleagues have once again shown their commitment to this important issue,” Johnson said.
Late Wednesday, the legislation was voted down by lethargic lawmakers on the heels of a lengthy discussion about trucking regulations. Johnson said when it came time for his bill, lawmakers “didn’t know what the bill did or that it was agreed upon, and it just got caught up in the wash.”
Some may still oppose the bill because it includes fines, which increase to $10,000 the day after the department receives a notice a second time in five years and $1,000 each day following. But Johnson was hopeful, since law enforcement and those who scrutinize law enforcement’s behavior are in favor of the legislation.
Texas Municipal Police Association Executive Director Kevin Lawrence said they were “absolutely supportive. Everybody should be required to play by the rules.”
The required reports collect demographic information about the people involved in the shooting; factual information like the address, date and time, severity of the shooting, and whether the person was armed; and a description of the original call.
An analysis of the reports has shown that in the 20 months from Sept. 2015 to May 2017, 302 individuals were shot – 141 fatally and 161 receiving injuries – by Texas law enforcement. Fifty-three people who were shot were unarmed. Meanwhile, 50 law enforcement officers were shot while on-duty, 10 fatally and 40 causing injuries, based on the reports.
But the database is incomplete, as reporting for this series, Point of Impact, revealed earlier this year. And those who fail to submit reports do not face punishments.
In February, this series reported that 12 fatal shootings of officers and civilians were improperly reported. The Attorney General’s office confirmed that all 12 reports should have been filed, and they were within weeks, albeit too late to be included in the annual reports released in 2016 and 2017.
What we reported
Since September, the American-Statesman has been running the “Point of Impact” series by freelance reporter Eva Ruth Moravec on officer-involved shootings in Texas. Earlier this year she discovered at least a dozen shootings hadn’t been properly reported to the state, prompting lawmakers to revisit the legislation requiring these reports. Learn more at www.pointofimpacttx.com, and follow the series on Twitter @POI_TX.