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Black Texas lawmakers unveil the George Floyd Act

Houston Chronicle logo Houston Chronicle 8/13/2020 By Taylor Goldenstein, Staff writer
Reginald C. Adams works on tracing a new mural that is going up on the Breakfast Klub in Houston on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. © Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

Reginald C. Adams works on tracing a new mural that is going up on the Breakfast Klub in Houston on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.

The Texas Legislative Black Caucus will hold a virtual press conference today to introduce the George Floyd Act, which would ban police from using chokeholds statewide and clarify in the law that officers are required to intervene and render aid when they believe their colleagues are using excessive force.

Floyd, 46, died in the custody of Minneapolis Police Department in May after being restrained by an officer who held his knee on Floyd’s neck for about eight minutes. (Some Texas cities have already banned chokeholds, including Houston, which did so in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.)

The legislation would also allow civil suits for “depriviation of rights under color of law to address qualified immunity” — the legal doctrine that shields government officials from litigation — “and caps on damages,” according to a draft of the law that the caucus released Thursday.

It would add to the duties of police the duty to intervene, identify and render aid, as well as clarifying in the law the situations in which force can be used.

“All force must be proportionate to the circumstance and the seriousness of the offense … and must be accompanied by attempt to de-escalate” situations.

It would eliminate certain uses of lethal force that are now allowable, and require officers to demonstrate that they use such force only when in “imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death” or when “no other lesser level of force could have worked” and their actions present no risk to bystanders. The use of force must stop as soon as the threat diminishes.

Additionally, the legislation would build on Texas’ 2017 Sandra Bland Act by ending arrests for non-jailable, fine-only violations.

This is a developing story. The legislation was unveiled at 1 p.m.; check back for updates.

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