AUSTIN (KXAN) — A senate bill that would revamp the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement’s authority passed a second reading Thursday in the House, moving the legislation another step closer to the finish line after years of effort.
Senate Bill 1445 by Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, would reform TCOLE’s role in overseeing law enforcement. As it currently stands, the expansive bill would create a definition for police misconduct and a process for reporting it to TCOLE, make a fit-for-duty examination for license holders, establish statewide conduct standards, create new standards for the formation of law enforcement agencies and set up a publicly searchable database of officer licensure information, among many other provisions, according to a House analysis.
The bill is expected to have a third reading Friday in the House. It will then head back to the Senate, which will approve changes and potentially make changes of its own. Any Senate alterations would need to be approved by the House.
TCOLE has been under Sunset Advisory Commission review for more than three years. The Sunset Commission previously made recommendations for reforming TCOLE that were put in a bill that didn’t pass in 2021. The Sunset Commission was then tasked with a limited scope review of TCOLE. Paxton, a member of the Sunset Commission, based her bill on the commission’s recommendations.
How will law enforcement oversight change?
As it currently stands, the bill would redefine misconduct for the purposes of TCOLE regulation. Misconduct would be defined as a violation of law or agency policy that is sustained and could result in a suspension, demotion or termination. Misconduct could also be a sustained allegation of untruthfulness, according to House analysis.
Under the bill, TCOLE would set minimum standards for the creation of law enforcement agencies and their continued operation. The minimum standards would encompass a determination of the public benefit of a new agency, as well as standards for sustainable funding sources and certain resources like firearms, less-than-lethal weapons for each officer, and communications and protective equipment, the analysis states.
In addition, the bill would require TCOLE to create a database of personnel files for all officers that could be used by departments during the hiring process. TCOLE would also designate a national law enforcement database to be used for pre-employment background checks. Before issuing a license to an officer, TCOLE would be responsible for requesting their personnel file from other states where they were previously licensed. An officer would be disqualified if their license had been revoked or suspended in another state for reasons that would be grounds for a TCOLE revocation or suspension.
The bill would also allow TCOLE to create advisory committees to make recommendations to agency programs and policies, such as training requirements for members, terms of service, conflict of interest policies and more.
KXAN will continue following Senate Bill 1445’s progress and report on changes and amendments in the coming days.