AUSTIN – Recently, the Texas Senate passed the first significant reform legislation aimed at addressing issues raised by the tragic death of Sandra Bland. The following groups thank John Whitmire for filing the Sandra Bland Act and leading the effort to pass a strong bill out of the Senate.
Yannis Banks, NAACP: “This bill requires police officers to be trained in de-escalation techniques that we believe will ultimately reduce the use of excessive force and improve community relations. Currently officer de-escalation training is only required in the context of mental health crisis intervention. We believe every officer should use de-escalation techniques in every encounter with citizens and this bill takes us in that direction.”
Rebecca Bernhardt, Texas Fair Defense: “The Texas Fair Defense Project is happy to see this bill honor Sandra Bland by strengthening protections for low-level, low-risk arrestees who don’t belong in county jails. We look forward to continuing to work with the Texas Legislature to reduce the use of unnecessarily punitive policies that hurt vulnerable Texans.”
Chas Moore, Austin Justice Coalition: “The Sandra Bland Act is a much needed first step. Texas must begin to address the fact that a disproportionate number of those stopped, arrested and sometimes harmed over simple traffic offenses are young black people. This bill wouldn’t have stopped the arrest of Sandra Bland but it does create new accountability by requiring improved racial profiling reporting for traffic stops and new use of force reporting for traffic stops. And the jail improvements might have prevented her death in a Waller County jail.”
Shakira Pumphrey, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition: “People arrested on minor offenses like a traffic charge should not die for their violation. But to prevent in-custody deaths like Sandra Bland’s, we have to improve the safety standards of our jails, make sure people with medical conditions at the time of their arrest get needed medical care, and divert people with mental illness out of the jails altogether. This bill creates a framework for all of those changes and we hope to see it become law.”
Scott Henson, Just Liberty: “More than one hundred people die in Texas jails each year. Most of those folks were arrested but not yet convicted of anything. Many, like Sandra Bland, were arrested on extraordinarily minor offenses. In a nation that prides ourselves on ‘Innocent until proven guilty,’ this is a terrible scar on our values. We thank Senator Whitmire and the rest of Senate for sending this bill to the House and hope it passes. These reforms are long overdue.”