AUSTIN (KXAN) – The legislature has passed a bill to give the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement more authority to set law enforcement standards and more control over the creation of new departments. The measure now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

The TCOLE reforms in Senate Bill 1445 by Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, were years in the making. Paxton is a member of the Sunset Advisory Commission, and her bill was created from recommendations made by that agency after years of review.

In a January 2023 report, the Sunset Commission described TCOLE as “toothless” and said it “had relatively limited authority to set or enforce anything but minimum licensure standards and had no meaningful role in setting or enforcing standards of conduct for law enforcement personnel or holding them accountable.”

Under the new law, TCOLE would develop new minimum standards — with the help of an advisory committee — for the creation or continued operation of a law enforcement agency. The standards would include determinations for the need to create the department and minimum standards for the department’s resources, according to a legislative analysis.

The bill defines police misconduct for the purposes of TCOLE regulation. Misconduct is defined as a violation of law or agency policy, which has been sustained by a law enforcement agency and could cause a suspension, demotion or termination. Misconduct could also be a sustained allegation of untruthfulness, according the analysis.

TCOLE will also create a publicly-accessible and searchable peace officer license database.

TCOLE will be tasked with checking the personnel files of new applicants that were officers in other states. The agency will not issue a license to a person whose previous license was revoked or suspended for a reason that would grounds for those disciplinary measures in Texas. In addition, TCOLE will be required to choose a national registry of police officer license revocations for misconduct and submit Texas revocations to that database.

The new law also removes categories from the F-5 separation form, which was an employment termination report that showed whether an officer was discharged honorably, generally or dishonorably. Those categories have been eliminated.

There are numerous other provisions in the bill, which can be seen here.

The final version of the bill was approved by a conference committee, which met to iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation. The conference committee included the following representatives from the House: Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth; Keith Bell, R-Forney; Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches and Justin Holland, R-Rockwall. The Senate appointed Joan Huffman, R-Houston; Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas; Phil King, R-Weatherford and Drew Springer, R-Muenster. Goldman and Huffman are the conference committee chairs.