Starting in September, any Texas law-enforcement agency that does not report a police shooting to the state attorney general within the allotted period could be fined $1,000 per day, with the penalty increasing if the agency commits the same infraction twice within a five-year period.
On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 245 into law. Authored by state Rep. Eric Johnson, the bill picks up where Johnson’s first bill, H.B. 1036, left off by creating punitive damages for departments that do not follow the data-reporting protocol.
As previously reported on The Root, with H.B. 1036, departments have 30 days to report shooting data to the Texas attorney general. If someone complains to the attorney general that a shooting should have been reported but wasn’t, the attorney general’s office investigates.
With H.B. 245, once the attorney general investigates and finds that a shooting should have been reported, the law-enforcement agency is notified that it has seven days to comply or else faces a fine of $1,000 per day until it does. If the agency fails to report a shooting in the required time twice within a five-year period, it incurs a penalty of $10,000 and then $1,000 each day until the report is filed.
Johnson told The Root, “I was on pins and needles because Gov. Abbott is the former chief law-enforcement officer in our state, and he has a reputation for being pro-law enforcement.”
Prior to becoming governor in the state of Texas, Abbott was the state attorney general. Johnson was concerned that because of Abbott’s background and his decidedly pro-law-enforcement stance, he could easily have been swayed by those who don’t want to see law-enforcement officers held to any standard at all, and might try to paint this legislation as anti-law enforcement.
“I’m proud of him for instead realizing that law-enforcement officers are professionals, and good law-enforcement agencies aren’t afraid of being held to standards of professionalism,” Johnson continued.
John Whitmire, the state senator from Houston who sponsored the bill on the Senate floor, told The Root that the law speaks for itself.
“We’ve never been able to gather the data on police shootings and serious incidents, and now we can,” Whitmire said. “I hope no one ever has to pay the fine. If they just report their data of the shootings, we will be able to reach further decision-making to what other steps need to be taken.”
“This legislation goes a long way towards my goal of making Texas the best state in the nation when it comes to collecting data on fatal interactions between civilians and law enforcement,” Johnson said.