After a public hearing on Tuesday, police departments in Texas may be required to include instructions for civilians about how to make a complaint about a police interaction on every citation or ticket.
The state Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing was geared towards addressing issues of law enforcement and race relations, and brought together law enforcement and members of the African-American community at the Capitol.
Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, introduced the idea of printing instructions on how to file complaints about the ticketing process for the consideration of the committee.
The proposal suggests the directions for filing complaints be printed directly onto the physical ticket.
Art Acevedo, the chief of the Austin Police Department, says he is already in the design process to implement this change.
“We are going to put information on how to complain on our citations,” Acevedo said after the hearing. “We’ll also put information on how to give feedback, good or bad, because we also want to reinforce good behavior.”
With this change, citizens who are pulled over or detained will be given explicit instructions on how they can file a complaint if they feel they are mistreated by an officer. Steven McCraw, director of the Department of Public Safety, said he will move to do the same for the statewide law enforcement agency.
Reverend James W.E. Dixon, one of three community leaders who testified, said his 9-year-old child is terrified of police and is aware of how the color of his skin may affect his relationship with the police.
“I feel threatened whenever the police stop me,” Dixon said. “I am an endangered species and so is my 9-year-old son.”
Other possible solutions considered by the committee were a ninth grade civics class teaching students how to interact with police, immediate release of police video upon any complaint, training on how to make traffic stops less aggressive and instituting a minimum penalty for police misconduct.
McCraw said immediate release of dashcam and body camera footage is something that must occur.
He pointed to how quickly the DPS released the footage of the death of Sandra Bland, who was found hanging in her jail cell after being stopped for a minor traffic violation in Waller County.
West also cited a situation in Chicago, where footage of the incident was not released for about 14 months because of the investigation.
“It doesn’t get prettier over time,” McCraw said. “It is what it is.”
Acevedo said the biggest issue with policing is not brutality but the lack of respect and sometimes rudeness that is felt by citizens from police officers who make traffic stops and police neighborhoods.
“The number one complaint against police officers is not brutality, it is rudeness,” Acevedo said. “It’s not being respectful. We cannot have a stop and frisk policy. We cannot act like an occupying army.”
The hearing will be one of many criminal justice hearings that will be organized before the legislative session begins in January.
Brochures that detail how citizens can make complaints about police are currently in the design process and should be released in the next few weeks, Acevedo said.