When Texas police are involved in a shooting – whether they shot the gun or not – they are mandated to report it to the attorney general’s office. But the legislator who sponsored the 2015 law acknowledges that it has no teeth. And one report has found that not all police departments are following the rules.
Eva Ruth Moravec is a freelance reporter working with the Houston Chronicle on “Point of Impact”, a series about police shootings. She found that since the law came into effect, at least a dozen officer-involved shootings went unreported.
Moravec has been keeping a database of every one-page shooting report to the attorney general’s office as it comes in, since 2015. She looked at custodial death reports – a required detailed report filed when someone dies in police custody – and law enforcement line of duty death reports to gauge what reports the attorney general’s office was lacking.
“What I did was went through those reports looking for fatal shootings and compared that basically to the officer-involved shooting reports that are also filed with the AG’s office and made public on another database,” she says.So far, 106 law enforcement agencies have reported shooting 238 civilians, 105 fatally, as of Jan. 31. Agencies also reported 39 officers were shot, six of whom died.
“So far, 106 law enforcement agencies have reported shooting 238 civilians, 105 fatally, as of Jan. 31. Agencies also reported 39 officers were shot, six of whom died,” Moravec reports.
According to information posted by the attorney general’s office, two precincts from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and sheriff’s departments in Ector, Bell, Montgomery, Refugio and Wood counties, and police departments in Beaumont, Dallas, Euless, and Marlin are still due to file reports.
But Moravec says she doesn’t sense any foul play.
“Overall, I believe it’s just misinformation – unfamiliarity with the law,” she says. “Others just call it an unfortunate oversight. I’ve also heard of departments who didn’t think that they had to file if the officer was off-duty, which is incorrect. … I have not gotten the impression that anyone is intentionally skirting the law, I think it’s just unfamiliarity and lack of information and attention to this.”
Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas), who authored the 2015 bill, has filed two bills that would mandate investigations into officer-involved shootings that weren’t reported to the attorney general’s office and that tie compliance or noncompliance of the law to criminal justice funding police departments get from the governor’s office.
Written by Beth Cortez-Neavel.