For Immediate Release
CHANGES WILL DRAMATICALLY AFFECT PUBLIC’S SAFETY
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas House on Tuesday added language to SB 815 that will severely limit the ability of officers to do their duty and protect the public.
“These new rules will have a chilling effect on law enforcement’s ability to protect communities, families and their fellow Texans.” Said CLEAT President Todd Harrison.
“Officers will be hesitant because they will now be open to liability and legal exposure for false arrest. We believe that this will also lead to officers being attacked and getting physically injured.” Said Harrison, an Austin Police Sergeant and 31 year veteran of law enforcement.
Texas officers are routinely called to resolve issues that involve conduct that is prohibited as a Class C or “fine only” offense.
This includes such offenses as Theft and Criminal Mischief under $100, Simple Assault, Reckless Damage or Destruction, Graffiti Under $100, Criminal Trespass, Disorderly Conduct, Obscene Display or Distribution, Gambling, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Voyeurism (Peeping Tom).
The amendment passed by the House would impose a new obligation for officers to not only prove the elements of the offense, but to also provide reasons for the arrest based on an ongoing danger to public safety or breach of the peace or continued breach of the peace, the officer was unable to identify the person, or the person refused to sign a citation. If the officer fails to prove those reasons, the magistrate hearing the case would be required to dismiss the case without a trial.
For example, an officer is called to a residence because of a “peeping tom” complaint. The officer finds and detains the person. Instead of arresting the person, the officer now has to issue a citation. The officer leaves and the person then returns and does something far worse to the victim. Because there is no definition of what constitutes as “ongoing danger to public safety” magistrates are going to subjectively consider each case and decide if the officer met the burden under the new law.
Officer discretion has been a key element in the ability of law enforcement to judge every incident on its own merit. By removing discretion officers will be unable to act in the best interests of public safety.
CLEAT believes in responsible police conduct and transparency. That is why we supported legislation that would outfit as many officers as possible with body cameras.
“The false narrative by anti-police activists claiming that officers are abusing discretion when it comes to fine only offenses is not been supported the evidence. Officers conducted 4.6 million traffic stops last year and less than half of one percent of those stopped were arrested.” Stated Charley Wilkison, Executive Director of CLEAT.
“Most Texas law enforcement agencies have already adopted policies that limit or address when officers can make class C arrests but leaves the officer with discretion.” Said Wilkison.
The amendment to SB 815, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by Governor Abbott, will have far-reaching unintended consequences. This new law will affect the ability of officers to protect the public.
“Body cameras show far more exceptional conduct on the part of officers.” Said Sgt. Harrison. “The irrational, emotional argument for this legislation is based on the unfortunate suicide of a citizen suffering from mental illness in a county jail.”