Grieder: Texas lawmakers ought to take probability to overtake legislation enforcement regulation
It’s always nice and notable when a government report is as candid as the one released last month by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission regarding the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
The summary begins bluntly: “The Texas approach to regulating law enforcement no longer meets the needs of the state.”
Well, it sounds like we should do something about it. And the good news is, we actually could – if the state legislature just stuck to the facts at hand instead of being upset by the politics of the day.
The report provides a brief summary of the quirks in our state’s approach to law enforcement, which dates back to 1970, and the problems that have resulted.
On HoustonChronicle.com: Report criticizes police training, oversight in Texas
TCOLE – the government agency in question – isn’t doing much to actually regulate law enforcement. It only sets minimum standards for the licensing and training of peace officials in Texas. Code of conduct and disciplinary standards are set by the law enforcement authorities themselves. These standards, the report says, are “inconsistently defined and enforced”. And if a civil servant turns out to be a really bad apple, the state can’t intervene unless he or she is convicted or postponed for wrongdoing.
The report states: “Current state regulation of law enforcement is largely toothless.”
Last year, more than 600 state law enforcement officers were dishonorably discharged from their authorities. more than a quarter of them were quickly reinstated as sworn officers.
Texans probably expect better than this, the Sunset Commission notes. “Technology has raised public awareness of law enforcement activities and significantly increased the pressure on professionalism and outside behavior control.”
The report comes as Democrats, still swaying from their less-than-stellar performance in this year’s non-presidential election, feel a little intramural fear on their way forward.
Although Democrat Joe Biden decisively defeated President Donald Trump, the Downballot Democrats fought over state and nation, failed to recapture state law, and lost seats in Congress. Democrats reopened a debate on whether the failure was due to an election year message deemed too liberal or not progressive enough.
Former President Barack Obama recently expressed some thoughts on the matter. He told journalist Peter Hamby that “Defund the Police” is an example of a “snappy slogan” that works well on social media but also puts many people off, with consequences that extend well beyond the ballot box.
“You have lost a huge audience the moment you say it, which makes it much less likely that you will actually make the changes you want,” argued Obama.
Obama has a point. But for some Democrats, Obamas is an overly cynical analysis; As we have all seen, the cost of police misconduct can be measured in human life. New York Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested in a series of tweets that the occasional short-term setback was nothing to fear.
“The whole point of the protest is that people feel uncomfortable,” tweeted the 31-year-old liberal democrat. “Activists accept this unease with the status quo and campaign for concrete political changes. Popular support often starts small and grows. “
The debate at hand will continue to take place in states and cities, including Houston, as well as nationally as advocates push for police reform.
However, the Sunset Commission’s report on TCOLE was not produced in response to this year’s political debates, nor is the Commission itself a kind of left-wing think tank. The timing of the report is just a fluke and its conclusions are based on fact. All government agencies are typically subject to sunset reviews every 12 years. TCOLE happens to be one of the agencies being reviewed in the 2020-21 cycle. The legislature will consider the Commission’s recommendations for the Agency during the next ordinary session of the legislature, which starts in January. In this case, the key recommendation is simple enough.
The Sunset Commission is suggesting that lawmakers set up a Blue Ribbon Panel to evaluate Texas law enforcement because our current approach isn’t working.