Texas Legislature Failed to Kill Police Oversight Statewide (for Now)

Senate Bill 2209 would have crushed Austin's oversight act

Photo by John Anderson

The most important policing-related bill coming out this session was Senate Bill 2209. Authored by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, the bill was a godsend for the state's police unions. It took direct aim at the very concept of civilian oversight of police departments, effectively preventing cities from ever implementing such systems and dismantling those already in existence.

The bill was an existential threat to the Austin Police Over­sight Act, which Austin voters had just approved by a 4-1 margin: Its passage would have killed the APOA before the city could even implement it. But that future will not come to pass – for now, pending a special session return – because Hancock's bill never made it out of the House.

After dying its first death in a House committee on May 8, the bill was resurrected following an intense lobbying effort by police groups, most notably the Austin Police Association and the San Antonio Police Officers' Association. The bill passed out of committee and was eventually placed on the calendar for a House floor vote May 23 – the last day for the House to approve Senate bills. But it never received a vote, so it died a second time. With sine die come and gone, the legislation is officially dead. So supporters of civilian police oversight in Texas can breathe a sigh of relief – for two years, maybe, until the next legislative session begins. Or perhaps for even less time, if similar legislation becomes one of the issues Gov. Greg Abbott wants addressed in the special session.

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