Sandra Bland’s mother returned to Texas on Tuesday to show support for a sweeping police-reform bill named after her daughter, who died in a jail near Houston after a confrontational traffic stop in 2015.
According to the Associated Press, it was the first time Bland’s family had testified before the Texas Legislature, which meets only once every two years. Bland’s death became part of the national conversation, and her name became a hashtag that is uplifted by the Black Lives Matter movement to this day.
If passed as it is drafted, the Sandra Bland Act would revamp racial-profiling laws, officer-training and other police-accountability measures.
Bland was pulled over in Waller County, Texas, by a white state trooper, Brian Encinia, for not signaling a lane change. The traffic stop quickly escalated, and Encinia pulled Bland out of her car while threatening her with a stun gun.
Bland was found dead three days later in the Waller County Jail, and her death was ruled a suicide.
Encinia was subsequently fired.
“I need this bill to move forward so that it will prove to people who say that Texas is the most awful state to live in. And to me that’s true, because Texas is a place of pain for me,” Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother, who lives in the Chicago area, said. “So I need you to think about what you have the power and ability to do today.”
Reed-Veal also told the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee that the legislation was not anti-police.
“I don’t hate police. I hate the fact that we do not understand that this has been going on for too long by those who have been charged to serve and protect us,” she said.
But the bill faces obstacles to reaching the desk of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott with less than two months before the Texas Legislature adjourns until 2019. Police associations oppose key provisions, including one that would prohibit drivers being arrested for low-level misdemeanors that are punishable only by fines.
Enhanced police protections—and not police accountability—is also the priority of Republican leaders in [...] Texas this year after a sniper killed five Dallas police officers last summer. The Texas Senate has already passed bills that would provide $25 million to purchase bullet-resistant vests for police and create an alert system that would notify the public when an officer is wounded or killed.
House Democrat Garnet Coleman is carrying the bill, and he admits that although the original legislation he filed in March was written with a “bias against police,” he is now committed to working with law-enforcement groups and negotiating changes.
“This is the best way to make progress that is not punitive to those who protect us,” Coleman said.
Read more at the Associated Press.