Austin lawmakers file police reform bills named for Mike Ramos

The Mike Ramos Act, filed March 11, would bring a new set of police reforms to Texas. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Mike Ramos Act, filed March 11, would bring a new set of police reforms to Texas. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Mike Ramos Act, filed March 11, would bring a new set of police reforms to Texas. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)

State Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, and state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, filed the Mike Ramos Act in the Texas Senate and Texas House, respectively, on March 11, legislation that would bring significant changes to policing in the state of Texas.

Ramos was shot and killed in April 2020 by Austin Police Department Officer Christopher Taylor. Police body cam footage showed Ramos was unarmed, and the Travis County District Attorney's Office indicted Taylor for murder March 11.

The mirroring pieces of legislation, SB 1472 in the Senate and HB 3654 in the House, would change laws in Texas regarding use of force policy, accountability measures for police officers and the public release of body camera footage. Eckhardt said under the new law, body camera footage would have to be released to civilian oversight bodies, attorneys and close relatives of those depicted in the video and to the public. Currently, she said, the release of the footage is in the hands of law enforcement. If the bill passes, police would have to convince a judge if they wanted to withhold release of the video.

In addition, the law would give more authority to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, a cosponsor of the bill in the Senate, called a "toothless tiger."

The new legislation would require TCLOE to set standards for use of force and de-escalation and establish new grounds for the state agency to remove an officer's license, including excessive use of force.

In the case of Ramos, Eckhardt said better training could have saved a life.

"Officers were performing what they had rehearsed," she said. "Their guns were drawn and they were yelling."

Chris Harris, director of the criminal justice project at nonprofit Texas Appleseed, said the new provisions would make it so police officers with a history of misconduct do not simply move to another jurisdiction to get rehired. He also said new standards around the release of body camera footage will help bring transparency.

"We know the impact the release of the footage of Mike has had in this community and on the path that we’re seeing toward justice in this case," Harris said.

In a release, Rodriguez said as the indictment of Taylor advances in the courts, he hopes the Mike Ramos Act also advances through hearings in the legislature.

"We cannot bring Mike Ramos back, but we can fight for policy changes that could prevent lives from being lost as the result of interactions between police and the communities they serve," Rodriguez said in the statement.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at [email protected]


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