Supporters of George Floyd Act rally at Capitol before first hearing
AUSTIN, Texas - A group that gathered at the Texas Capitol Thursday morning came to Austin from several different Texas cities. They all had different stories, but essentially the same question.
"So who do we call on the police? Who arrest police, who’s going to stay, and protect us from the police," said Bernice Roundtree who had a family member killed in San Antonio.
Family members of individuals who died in different confrontations with police spoke during the rally. Some shared how they remain emotionally scarred and how they have lost faith in those who are sworn to protect.
"You get a cop behind you or you get a cop walking toward you, you are afraid. We don’t know what to do," said Debbie Bush who lost her son in 2014.
The rally at the Capitol was to show support for a legislative police reform package called the George Floyd Act.
"This bill must be passed, do not give in," said Harold Barnes who lost his son in a shooting with police.
Members of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee spent the day listening to testimony about HB 88.
Key parts of the reform package include:
- A ban on chokeholds and no-knock warrants.
- A requirement to intervene when officers see another officer violate policy.
- Prohibits arrest for non-jailable offenses.
- Restructures the process for using deadly force
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"It feels genuine it feels different it feels like we may actually be able to agree on more stuff than we normally disagree on," said rally organizer Chas Moore.
That feeling is common ground with police organizations like CLEAT. Charley Wilkison who heads up the police advocacy group told FOX7 that many of the reforms, like those dealing with chokeholds and arrest policy, are changes the rank-and-file can support.
"If we don’t have trust then you can’t have policing and officers want that trust they work hard to earn it," said Wilkison.
Police unions and law enforcement officers who testified do object to the elimination of qualified immunity. Wilkison believes reformers have neglected to apply that change to those who approve the training protocols.
"They’re doing the easy work of trying to get a headline, and saying we are going to reform the police in Texas and the way we’re gonna do it is we’re going to be punitive toward the patrol officer that risk everything and gives his life and we’re gonna give a pass to the rich and powerful at City Hall," said Wilkison.
The immunity part of HB 88 may be removed during futures debates. Moore expects that to happen but hopes most of the reform measures will make it through.
"All these people want, if you listen to everybody today is, they want accountability, that’s it. It’s not we hate cops, it’s not anti-cop, it's we want cops who mess up, just like you and I, if we do something wrong, we’re gonna be held accountable, that’s all people want," said Moore.
That message of accountability was also shared by Travis Cains, the brother of George Floyd, who spoke during the rally. "I’m here because I am a human being, I’m not just an African-American, my brother, my friend wasn’t just an African-American, he was a human being, and what was done was in justice?" said Cains.
This is just the first step in a very long journey for HB 88. If it makes it through the Texas House, it still has to go through the Senate.