Large support for police reform bills after unarmed teen was killed

Members of the black legislative and Hispanic caucuses came together Thursday morning hoping to do than just mourn. "We are, at once, outraged and in agony,” said Rep. Helen Giddings.

The DeSoto Democrat went on to say the incident was not an isolated problem limited to the Dallas area.

“There is nothing that we are doing in Austin, Texas in terms of the legislature that is more important than eradicating this disease that is taking out these young unarmed black men, whose only crime it seems is being black,” said Rep. Giddings.

15 year old Jordan Edwards was shot by a Balch Springs police officer Saturday night.

He was leaving a party in a car with his brothers as police responded to a complaint. Officers initially claimed the vehicle was reversing "in an aggressive manner" towards them. But State Sen. Royce West noted that video taken at the scene showed the car was actually driving away.

"Think about the police report that was authored by this officer and the other officers on the scene, the first response was to lie about it, had there not been independent video evidence of what occurred that officer would not have been fired, because it would have been a credibility issue,” said the Senator from Dallas.

The state lawmakers praised the steps being taken by the local authorities who are investigating the shooting. But Rep Toni Rose who represents the District where the shooting took place said more can be done.

"There is currently legislation pending that will help with these incidents, help us stop them and I just hope will rally around that legislation and will support it, in the future continue,” said Rep. Rose.

The package of Law Enforcement Reform Bills that are still pending address several different issues.

They include mental health evaluations and additional training. The most prominent is the Sandra Bland Act. A volatile confrontation in Walker County nearly two years ago brought about calls for reform.

The Sandra Bland Act is awaiting floor debate in the House and Senate. 

The legislation mandates jails to move those in custody with mental health and substance abuse issues to treatment centers. It also requires more jail house sensors and cameras as well as additional training to limit use of force and to better understanding racial bias.

"Clearly the legislation is unfortunately, is not robust as we had filed it, but we do have language about outside investigations of events that occur,” said Houston Democrat Garnet Coleman who drafted the House version.

Other reforms like Rep. Senfronia Thompson's de-escalation bill have stalled,

"Let me tell you what it will take to get it passed, it’s going to take the Governor, Lt. Governor and the Speaker to take their heads out of the sand and get it done,” said the Houston Democrat.

In a statement issued Wednesday night, Governor Greg Abbott did offer sympathy to the Edwards family and affirmed the call for a full and fair investigation.

House Democratic Party Caucus Leader Rep. Chris Turner wants more from the state leadership.

"It’s not simply enough to send our thoughts a prayers we need action,” said the Arlington Democrat.

Time is running out, there is less than four weeks left in the session.

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