AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Sandra Bland Act will make it harder for police officers to racially profile and will get help for the mentally ill in jail among other provisions intended to address race, poverty, mental health and accountability in law enforcement.
Standing in front of the Texas Supreme Court, State Rep. Garnet Colman unveiled HB-2702, legislation that stems from a DPS traffic stop nearly two years ago.
The trooper got into a heated conversation with the driver, Sandra Bland, and she was arrested for assaulting a public servant. Three days later, the 28-year-old black woman was found dead in her jail cell, her death ruled a suicide by hanging.
The bill would abolish consent searches during traffic stops and arrests for minor traffic violations.
“This bill in total changes the definition of racial profiling,” said Coleman.
If it passes, officers would be required to have probable cause to search, officers could not use the pre-text of a minor traffic violation to fish for bigger crimes.
“So when the DPS says, hey we don’t racially profile. Well, if all this becomes law, yes you do, said the Houston Democrat.
The bill also would increase police officer training for de-escalation and mental health awareness, and fund more treatment programs to keep people out of jail.
“I think about David Joseph the naked 17-year-old teenager that was here in Austin. I think about last week here in Austin 30-year-old Morgan Rankins that had a history of mental health, said Chas Moore with the Austin Justice Coalition. “But instead of serving these people and hearing their outcry, our cops are not trained to deal with these people.”
Coleman’s bill has the backing of Sheriffs who run jails dealing with those with mental illness.
“The mental health portion of the bill has long been a concern of Texas Sheriffs, said Sheriff A.J. Louderback of the Sheriff’s Assoc. of Texas.
Next for the Sandra Bland Act are legislative hearings, finding a sponsor in the Senate and a fiscal note from the Legislative Budget Board that estimates the cost to taxpayers.
You can read the whole legislation here.