Saturday, August 13, 2022

Texas House Passes Botham Jean Act

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AUSTIN — The Botham Jean Act received final passage in the Texas House on Friday, one day after narrowly beating the first major midnight deadline of the 87th Legislature.

DeSoto Democratic Rep. Carl O. Sherman’s proposal, also known as Bo’s Law, is named after Botham Jean, a Dallas man who was killed inside his apartment by Amber Guyger, an off-duty police officer, in 2018.

The bill would require officers equipped with body-worn cameras to keep them activated for the entirety of their participation in an investigation. Bo’s Law cleared the House with a vote of 108-34 just one day after narrowly beating the first major deadline Thursday night, with roughly 45 minutes to spare.

After Friday’s passage, the legislation now needs approval from the Senate before it would go to Gov. Greg Abbott.

Sherman said Bo’s Law is about more “systemic accountability” in policing, adding that the bipartisan support was a “watershed” moment.
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“We want to make sure all the evidence is there to uphold the integrity of policing as a profession and not redact or edit out footage,” Sherman said in a press release.

“In keeping with the spirit of the young man who HB929 was named after ‘Let the spirit of Botham Jean continue to rise among us.’”

Sherman said the House bill number, 929, was a request from Jean’s mother in honor of Bo’s Sept. 29 birthday, and it was honored by Republican Speaker Dade Phelan.

Sherman’s proposal ran close to the midnight deadline Thursday and might have joined hundreds of other bills that failed to beat the buzzer and died as a result.

He said he remained optimistic throughout the day, and at 11:15 p.m., he was recognized to lay out the bill.

Reps. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, and Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, voiced concern over the definition of when an investigation begins and ends.

“This came through our committee, I didn’t support it, and I really appreciate you making a lot of changes,” Tinderholt said while asking Sherman to consider an amendment that would allow officers to turn off their body camera after they make entry and the area is secure.

Rep. Ann Johnson, D-Houston, a former chief human trafficking prosecutor in Harris County, disagreed with Tinderholt, arguing that body cameras allow prosecutors to protect both sides.

“Even now, today, I do defense work, and when I get a body cam video, it might have hours on it. And that’s a good thing,” Johnson said. “Because those hours of body cam video give us the chance to not only protect the accused, but also to protect law enforcement. When they have done it right, they have got that body cam there.”

Sherman assured Johnson that it is his intention to follow law enforcement policy such as still allowing body-worn cameras to be turned off when an officer uses the restroom and when they call their district attorney.

During conversations with The Dallas Morning News throughout the session, Sherman, whose youngest son is a police officer, said this isn’t a “gotcha” bill, noting that he worked both across the aisle and with law enforcement agencies during the drafting of the proposal.

“This is not about police versus protesters or citizens, this is really just about trying to make sure that we create an environment for good officers,” Sherman said in April.

“Good officers want us to do this. They want us to stop allowing shields for bad officers to remain.”

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Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
Our Editorial Staff at St. Lucia Times is a team publishing news and other articles to over 200,000 regular monthly readers in Saint Lucia and in over 150 other countries worldwide.


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