Texas Lawmakers Water Down 'Sandra Bland Act', Remove Police Accountability
"What the bill does in its current state renders Sandy invisible," said Sharon Cooper, Bland's older sister.
The Texas Legislature seems to be following the lead of the Trump administration and the ongoing effort by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to walk back consent decrees and other collaborative efforts made to hold police departments with patterns of civil rights abuses to a level of accountability.
The "Sandra Bland Act," originally filed as a sweeping package to put in place police accountability and anti-racial profiling measures, has been stripped down by Texas lawmakers to focus mainly on better jail trailing and mental health care access. Democrats who presented the measure say they did the best they could against the Republican-controlled Legislature and powerful law enforcement groups. The bill cleared the Senate this week and must now clear the House before the legislature adjourns on May 29.
The original act, posed in response to the 2015 death of Sandra Bland, a black woman found hanged in a Waller County jail after a traffic stop with a white state trooper, is barely recognizable in its current state. The death of Bland - initially ruled a suicide was latent with so many contradictory reports and suspicious evidence that her family was awarded $1.9 million in wrongful death civil suit against Texas officials. Still, when it comes to reforming the scathing holes in the system that allowed such a tragic incident to take place, state lawmakers are reluctant to take proactive measures.
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"What the bill does in its current state renders Sandy invisible," said Sharon Cooper, Bland's older sister, in an interview with The Associated Press. "It's frustrating and gut-wrenching." Speaking on behalf of the Bland family, Cooper said the legislation as it now stands "isolates the very person it seeks to honor" and makes compromises at the expense of the family. "It painfully misses the mark for us," she said.
Democratic state Rep. Garnet Coleman, who sponsored the original bill, echoed Cooper's sentiments saying, "I share her displeasure... This is not what any of us wanted." Coleman continued with, "she should be upset and not pleased with the results because we all hoped for more."