Police shootings accountability bill signed into law

The State of Texas will soon be able to fine law enforcement agencies that don’t properly report officer-involved shootings.

On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbot gave final approval to changes to the 2015 law that requires agencies to fill out a one-page form and file it with the Attorney General’s office within 30 days of a shooting. The bill, by Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas), was one of only 1,211 House and Senate bills introduced in the 85th legislative session that has become law so far, marking the lowest total for a regular session since 1995.

After Sept. 1, agencies caught not filing their reports will receive written notice to file it within seven days or face $1,000-a-day fines until the report is submitted. The fine rises to $10,000 for the first day and $1,000 each following day if an agency reoffends within five years. The fines will be deposited in the crime victims’ compensation fund.

The new changes also eliminate a previous requirement for agencies to post the reports on their websites and extends until March an annual deadline for the Attorney General’s office to release a report summarizing incidents from the previous calendar year.

The state’s annual reports for 2015 and 2016 are missing at least 12 reports of fatal shootings that were not filed when the reports were completed. Reporting for this seriesPoint of Impact, revealed earlier this year that the reports were missing, but all of the agencies filed them after being contacted.

Based on the reports, in the 20 months from Sept. 2015 to May 2017, 302 individuals were shot – 141 fatally and 161 causing 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.

 

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