Compared to the test of Texas, the Dallas Police Department is a paragon of transparency when it comes to police shootings. Whenever a DPD officer fires his or her weapon, data from the shooting, including a description of the incident, is readily available on the department's website. As the incident moves through the legal system, information about any potential criminal charges or indictments is added, making it easy for the public to follow, whether they agree with the outcomes or not.
Other departments across the state aren't as free with their data, but a new bill from Dallas state Representative Eric Johnson, passed Friday by the Texas House of Representatives, would fine departments that fail to make data from shootings promptly available to the Texas Attorney General's Office.
“Texas has the opportunity to lead the nation in transparency and accountability in policing," Johnson said Friday. "We made great strides by passing a law last session to require officer-involved shootings and peace officer injuries and deaths to be reported, but need to make sure our data is complete."
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A new state law passed in 2015 requires Texas police agencies to report any shooting to the Attorney General's office within 30 days, but there are no consequences for departments that fail to file timely reports. Since the bill became law on September 1, 2015, many agencies have filed reports months after the 30 day deadline, sometimes only after being questioned by media outlets, according to an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman.
Johnson's bill would impose heavy fines on agencies that don't comply. Under Johnson's bill, the Texas Attorney General's office would give any agency with a missing report seven days to file. After seven days, the agency would be fined $1,000 a day until it files the report. Any agency with more than one fine in a five-year period faces an initial fine of $10,000, with a $1,000 fine every day thereafter.
"Given the recent tragic shooting of Jordan Edwards, it is imperative that we get to the root cause of why these events keep happening," Johnson said. "However, it is difficult to have a thorough and fact-based discussion when we lack the necessary data."