Efforts to change policing in Texas in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer last year have mostly failed.
The Legislature had been considering the George Floyd Act – an omnibus bill announced last summer, and introduced by Rep. Senfronia Thompson and Sen. Royce West at the beginning of the session. But Rice University political science professor Mark Jones tells Texas Standard that the bill was “chopped up” into smaller bills, many of which have failed to progress.
“Once it started going through piecemeal … there were just lots of barriers,” he said.
The strongest resistance came from police unions. Jones says their biggest concern was protecting so-called qualified immunity – something the bill would have removed. Qualified immunity protects officers from state civil rights lawsuits.
“There was a lot of resistance from police unions and law enforcement in general, and that’s really what scuttled the George Floyd Act,” he said.
But the George Floyd Act had public support. A University of Houston Hobby School poll showed 72% of Texans favored it, Jones says.
Some pieces of the bill have progressed in the Legislature. Chokeholds are now banned, though that’s a practice Jones says most police departments had already banned. And officers must also intervene and report when they see another officer using excessive force. One more provision, an end to so-called no-knock warrants, is still under debate.
Jones says it’s unlikely the George Floyd Act will resurface during the next legislative session in 2023.
“Unfortunately, I think two years from now, most people will have forgotten it,” he said. “Unless there are subsequent abusive acts by police officers that put a spotlight on these types of issues, especially here in Texas, we are unlikely to see the George Floyd Act passed in 2023, although hope springs eternal.”
This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the George Floyd Act was introduced as a proposal in summer 2020, months before it was filed as a bill in the Texas Legislature.