AUSTIN, Texas - Governor Greg Abbott was joined Tuesday morning by the head of DPS, Steve McCraw, at a trooper regional office in Waco.
The two were there to announce a plan to reform the way people bail out of jail.
"Reforms that will make our community safer by keeping violent criminals off of our streets,” said Governor Abbott.
Under Abbott's s plan magistrate judges would no longer be allowed to set bond amounts for individuals who commit violent felony offenses and serious misdemeanor crimes. Higher court judges, according to the governor should set those amounts. Past attacks on law enforcement officers would also have to be considered; just like any history of domestic violence.
"This must be done to prevent any more deaths like what happened to Damon Allen,” said the Governor.
Trooper Damon Allen was shot in killed in November of last year. It happened during a traffic stop on I-45 South of Corsicana, near Fairfield. Investigators say the man charged with the murder had a history of attacks on law-enforcement officers. At the time of the incident, it was also determined that the driver was out on a $15,500 bond. It was set by a county Justice of the Peace.
"The JP said, and I quote, I wasn't aware of a previous conviction, that is a flaw in our legal system that must be fixed,” said Governor Abbott.
The Trooper Damon Allen Act would also include creating a statewide database to provide judges with faster access to criminal records.
The funeral service for Trooper Allen was held in Mexia, about an hour north of Waco. He was laid to rest not far from there. His wife Kasey was at the news conference Tuesday morning with the governor, and she endorsed the reform plan.
"Everything he is saying is exactly what I wrote on my little note pad when I went in to meet with him,” said Kasey Allen.
Allen made it clear, as she spoke during the news conference, the time to mourn her husband is now over.
"After his death I was sad, and of course, I was angry but I also knew, in order to honor his memory, I need to work toward meaningful change in our system,” said Allen.
Abbott believes his plan does not conflict with concerns by some judicial reform advocates. There's concern that the current system discriminates against poor minorities.
"The two actually dove tail. We don't want to keep behind bars people who don't pose a threat or danger to anyone, who get behind bars simply because they don't have the money to pay the bill, but what we're talking about here is reforming the bill system in a way that does not release back on our streets someone who is a repeat offender, demonstrated danger to the community to make sure if they do, the bail is going to be a high bail,” said Governor Abbott.
The Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court Tuesday urged state lawmakers to move forward with the governor's plan. Justice Nathan Hecht noted that Texas law limits a judges' power to detain high-risk defendants, while low-risk defendants are held, unjustifiably he contends, at taxpayer expense.