Bill Aimed at Police Reform in Texas Named for Black Police Shooting Victim Michael Ramos. Predictably, Some Officials Are Mad

A mural honoring Michael Ramos, 42, is seen painted on the facade of La Mexicana Bakery on March 10, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Taylor was indicted by a Travis County grand jury for the murder of Ramos on March 10, 2021 the first time in decades an Austin police officer has faced a charge for an on-duty shooting.
A mural honoring Michael Ramos, 42, is seen painted on the facade of La Mexicana Bakery on March 10, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Taylor was indicted by a Travis County grand jury for the murder of Ramos on March 10, 2021 the first time in decades an Austin police officer has faced a charge for an on-duty shooting.
Photo: Montinique Monroe (Getty Images)

Last week, The Root reported that the Austin, Texas, police officer who fatally shot 42-year-old Michael Ramos in April last year was arrested and charged with murder.

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Now, Ramos’ name has been attached to a new bill that is supposedly aimed at preventing killings like Ramos’ at the hands of police officers from happening again.

FOX 7 reports that SB 1472—also called the “Michael Ramos Act”—was recently filed by State Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin).

“We need to speak clearly with our law enforcement community, about standards about training, about de-escalation, body language, and then for police officers who are simply not a right fit for that kind of work and are unable to deescalated in those moments we need to be able to remove them from law enforcement,” Eckhardt told FOX 7.

Before we get too deep into what the proposed legislation does, here’s a quick recap on what we’ve reported on Ramos so far:

NBC News reports that the officer who fatally shot Ramos, Christopher Taylor, was charged with murder Thursday morning and was released on $100,000 bond. As we previously reported, Taylor fired at Ramos as he was attempting to drive away from police, which body-cam footage appears to show he only did because another officer, Mitchell Pieper, fired a beanbag round at him while he was complying with the officers’ loud and aggressive orders and begging them not to shoot him.

All of this came after someone called 911 and reported that Ramos and a woman who he was with were “in the car smokin’ crack and cookin’ meth,” and that Ramos “has a gun to this lady.” No gun was found at the scene or in Ramos’ car.

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So, one of the functions of SB 1472 is that it allows for the process for which police body-cam video is made available to the public to be sped up. In fact, one section of the bill calls for a “civilian oversight system associated with the law enforcement agency” to be able to view body camera footage related to a use of deadly force incident before the involved officer views it.

Charley Wilkison, who represents the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), told FOX 7 that he believes the bill will prevent officers from seeing video of incidents they’re involved in before they make statements.

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“That’s just un-American, it just absolutely allows no defense of the person’s actions, we wouldn’t treat a criminal that way in court,” Wilkison said.

Wilkison said he takes issue with several sections of the bill that he considers to be “punitive.”

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“Because this is intended to be punitive, not helpful, not instructive, this is intended to be punitive,” he continued. “It’s intended to be a press release, and not law, not statute, it’s a loading up the cannon with all the anti-police stuff you can get and firing it off into state law.”

Normally, I immediately turn my ears off when white people start tossing around conservative platitudes like “un-American” and “anti-police,” because it’s just already clear that the discussion is going to devolve into some “back the blue” narrative that has no earnest interest in effective police reform.

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As for the issue of cops not seeing body-cam footage before it goes public—and I admittedly am no legal scholar so maybe I’m just not getting it—why does it matter if an officer is able to view footage of a thing he was there for before he makes a statement?

If all a cop has to do is recall the thing he experienced first hand, shouldn’t they already know what’s on camera? It’s almost as if they’re expected to be less than truthful when making their reports unless they know exactly what can be proven via video recordings.

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But whatever, Wilkison believes the bill is more about politics than reform and he cites the fact that Ramos’ name is attached to the legislation even though his killer hasn’t been prosecuted yet.

Sen. Royce West (D- Dallas), who co-sponsored the bill, disagrees.

“I see no problems associated with it,” West told FOX 7. “There may be others that do but it will be well worthwhile if they do have a problem that they articulate exactly what the problem is and then we’ll figure out whether or not we can address it.

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“Let me be real clear, I have a lot of friends in law enforcement,” he continued. “I’m a former Assistant District Attorney, I want to make certain that a police officer leaves home in the morning, they go back home in the evening. But likewise, I want to make certain that when citizens leave home in the morning and have done nothing so detrimental to the norms of society, that they be able to go back home that evening, not end up dead.”

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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