AUSTIN, Texas - The confrontation between Mike Ramos and Austin police ended with his death. SB 1472 filed by Austin State Sen. Sarah Eckhardt was written to prevent a similar incident from happening again.
"We need to speak clearly with our law enforcement community, about standards about training, about de-escalation, body language, and then for police officers who are simply not a right fit for that kind of work and are unable to deescalated in those moments we need to be able to remove them from law enforcement," said state Sen. Eckhardt (D-Austin).
A quicker public release of police video is a key part of the legislation, but there is concern that the bill will prevent officers involved in an incident from seeing a video before making a statement.
"That's just un-American, it just absolutely allows no defense of the person's actions, we wouldn't treat a criminal that way in court," said Charley Wilkison with CLEAT.
Wilkison said he has talked to state Sen. Eckhardt about police reform, but he is troubled with several sections of the bill. Among them, a requirement for intervention that he believes is too vague.
"Because this is intended to be punitive, not helpful, not instructive, this is intended to be punitive, its intended to be a press release, and not law, not statute, it’s a loading up the cannon with all the anti-police stuff you can get and firing it off into state law," said Wilkison.
An example of politicizing the issue, according to Wilkison, is how Eckhardt's bill is named for Mike Ramos before the officer-involved shooting case is adjudicated.
"I see no problems associated with it, there may be others that do but it will be well worthwhile if they do have a problem that they articulate exactly what the problem is and then we'll figure out whether or not we can address it," said state Sen. Royce West (D- Dallas), a co-sponsor of the bill.
He says reform should include the agency overseeing police training standards, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. He called it a toothless tiger.
"Let me be real clear, I have a lot of friends in law enforcement, I’m a former Assistant District Attorney, I want to make certain that a police officer leaves home in the morning, they go back home in the evening. But likewise, I want to make certain that when citizens leave home in the morning and have done nothing so detrimental to the norms of society, that they be able to go back home that evening, not end up dead," said state Sen. West.
"I feel good but there is still a long ways to go," said Ramos.
Wilkison said he wants to work with the lawmakers on the bill, but he warned if reform measures are not done right, unintended consequences could happen. Wilkison suggested police departments could be reduced to the status of security guards or turned into political operatives for city hall politicians like what happened in some cities decades ago before civil service laws were enacted.