A new bill being deliberated in the Texas House this week seeks to create additional oversight of law enforcement agencies tasked with serving Texan communities.

Authored by Sen. Konni Burton, (R)-District 10, Senate Bill 1529 revises sections of the Occupations Code that governs law enforcement agencies to ensure that they operate under certain minimum standards. These standards include the submission of information regarding the necessity of such a law enforcement agency, its funding source–among other concerns–to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE).

While TCOLE is responsible for oversight of such agencies, under current law, they lack statutory enforcement authority to hold them accountable to those standards. SB 1529 would provide a mechanism whereby TCOLE can bring non-complying agencies back into compliance.

The bill would authorize TCOLE to suspend the law enforcement operations of an agency if it is found that they fail to maintain criteria set forth in Section 1701 of the Occupations Code, including:

  • the ability to demonstrate an outgoing public need for the law enforcement agency or police department;
  • the ability to provide for adequate funding;
  • providing sufficient physical resources/facilities for its peace officers;
  • the maintenance/enforcement of department policies regarding use of force, vehicle pursuit, professional conduct of officers, etc.

Additionally, an entity seeking to create such a law enforcement agency would be prohibited under this bill from beginning operations until satisfactorily submitting such information to TCOLE, and receiving an agency number from TCOLE in return.

In effect, SB 1529 requires police departments and other law enforcement agencies to demonstrate the need for their sustained operation. Poorly performing departments unable to maintain minimum standards expected of them by their communities would have operations suspended until bringing themselves back into compliance. The bill encourages agencies to hold themselves accountable to the people they serve, and has the support of the Texas Municipal Police Association and the Houston Police Officer’s Union.

SB 1529 now heads to the House Homeland Security and Public Safety committee.